Ever since Madam C.J. Walker revolutionized the Black beauty industry by becoming its first millionaire in the early 1900s, our salons have stood strong. Along with styling and caring for our hair, they are both viable businesses and an integral part of our community.

Yet, as is true with just about any other industry these days, evolution is essential. That’s why, despite increased competition for clients (see sidebar, right), Black salons are devising innovative ways to serve you better. Here, we highlight advice gleaned from top salon owners across the country who are taking their salon services to the next level.

WHAT YOU WANT: No wait time.

HOW TO GET IT: Seek a service-driven salon.

CASE STUDY: Salon Zeviar, NYC

Owner and extensions specialist Jilena K. Zeviar makes sure customers aren’t kept waiting. She, along with eight other master stylists, formed a collective that offers the ultimate in professional care. Their primary secret for success? “We put our customers first,” she says about the salon’s core principle. “Everyone here is efficient and always on time. All the stylists have assistants, so when the client comes in, someone greets her right away, gives her a robe, and escorts her to the chair.”

WHAT YOU WANT: Stay connected.

HOW TO GET IT: Find a salon where you can multitask.

CASE STUDY: GlamBar, Atlanta

Owner Sabrina Peterson designed the two-year-old salon to meet her patrons’ every need, including combining technology with tress care. From laptops with free Wi-Fi to iPod shuffles and a concierge desk, “We offer over-the-top services for our clients,” Peterson says. “We put just as much attention into our styling services and stay up on the latest innovations and exciting beauty options.”

WHAT YOU WANT: Chic and cheap.

HOW TO GET IT: Shop around.

CASE STUDY: GlamSity, Oakland

When owner Jacquie Blu Washington first opened her salon two years ago, she wanted to provide exceptional services at reasonable rates. New clients get 20 percent discounts, and she keeps her shampoo and style at $55, and relaxers — which include a trim — at $80. She says her prices have allowed clients to keep steady appointments during the economic downturn. The result: a win-win for everyone.

WHAT YOU WANT: Breakage-free blowout.

HOW TO GET IT: Book a veteran.

CASE STUDY: L.A.’s Hair Studio, Sharpsburg, Georgia

When LaGuana Albarracin returned to Atlanta, she was shocked by the spread of Dominican salons. But Albarracin had worked in Spanish and White salons while living in Florida, so her attitude was, “Don’t hate them, join them,” she says. “I had a Dominican stylist come in and teach my staff the round-brush technique. But our clients never have to worry about their hair breaking, because we give them what they want in a healthy way.”

WHAT YOU WANT: Natural news.

HOW TO GET IT: Become a fan — online.

CASE STUDY: Khamit Kinks, Brooklyn Veteran natural-hair stylist and salon owner Anu Prestonia used Facebook to join the online conversation among natural-hair lovers and began penning a blog on the salon’s Web site. With 5,000 people who “like” her salon, she engages them in conversations about Black culture and shows the latest styles. The result: an ever-growing and loyal clientele. “I’ve kept my standards very high because women who do not have time to do their own hair want to be serviced in a warm and welcoming environment,” says Prestonia.

WHAT YOU WANT: At-home advice.

HOW TO GET IT: Just ask!

CASE STUDY: Salon Tenshi, Philadelphia

As the economy tanked, salon owner Brandy Davila noticed a drop in weekly appointments. “Some clients couldn’t come in regularly, so we came up with the idea of [BYOB] — Bring Your Own Brush parties,” says Davila. “They bring what they normally use at home, and we show them the tools we use and how we use them. And if they don’t have the correct ones, we offer them the option of purchasing products in our retail area to help them have everything they need at home.”

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