During the pandemic, many people changed their lives, jobs, and routines in surprising ways. For Philadelphia-based hair stylist Stephen Brodsky, adapting to the pandemic meant adding a new addition to his career and home: an at-home hair salon.
Brodsky, 60, has recently remodeled his basement so that he can cut and style hair for clients who still don’t feel comfortable going into a crowded space to get a haircut. For the last 30 years, Brodsky has worked in salons across the Philadelphia area, from Media to Center City, and even in clients’ homes in Montgomery and Chester counties. But now he has his own space for his closest family and friends to come and get their hair styled and trimmed.
“I love what I do,” Brodsky said. “I love making people look and feel good about themselves.”
Brodsky still works a few days a week at a salon in Media, but reserves his own space for his closest friends and family. He is not taking new clients in his home, and will only see someone if he has known them previously.
When lockdowns shut down the world in March 2020, Brodsky sat at home for a month without any form of income. It wasn’t long before clients he’d worked with in the past started to reach out.
“They’d come here,” Brodsky said. “You know, people were not going into other people’s homes, and I have a beautiful backyard. So I would cut hair back there.”
As the weather became colder and vaccines became more readily available, Brodsky and his husband, Rodger Kohler, opened the inside of their East Falls townhouse for clients. Clients would sit in the living room having their hair cut, with company from the couple’s great dane, Gracie.
“I enjoy entertaining,” Brodsky said. “It’s comfortable. My clients that have become my friends over the years want to come here. They don’t want to go back to the salon.”
But the arrangement wasn’t the easiest. Often, clients would come by on weekends, and Kohler was tasked with cleaning up the excess hair that would fall to the carpet during a trim and making sure the house looked pristine for visitors.
“For me, it just felt a little awkward,” Kohler said. “Vacuuming up after every single client, and you’re still trying to do this in the middle of your living room. I mean, what was nice was when it was outside, but still you had to clean up.”
The living room was not a permanent solution. Over the past few months, Brodsky has set up a home salon in his basement, with a full sink and salon chair, sitting area for when clients bring their children or a companion along, and an organizer for Brodsky’s various hair dyes and highlights.
Sheryl Raskin, a fashion publicist who has been seeing Brodsky for nearly 30 years, explained that visiting her hair stylist at home has been more convenient, efficient, and fulfilling.
“Before, when I visited Stephen in the salon, it was much more expensive, and he wasn’t getting 100% of what I was paying,” she said. “But now, I get to visit him in a more safe and comfortable space, hang out with his family, and we can fully enjoy our time together without the loud and distracting environment of a salon.”
The salon is not finished – Brodsky still plans on making a few small renovations downstairs. New paint colors, curtains, and a bit of decluttering are still needed to make the space feel more homey. Upstairs, he and Kohler are in the process of renovating their kitchen, which they hope will contribute to a more open and inviting space for guests.
“He’s really enjoying it and making it work, actually succeeding and thriving with having the salon in the basement,” Kohler said. “It has really made a great impact on him actually being more happy. It was draining when he had to go to the city.”
As the city opens up more post-COVID, Brodsky is excited about this new step in his career. Though bars and restaurants may be opening back up, Brodsky plans to keep cutting hair in his basement.
“I just love my job,” he said. “I tell my clients, ‘you know, you think it’s about you because you’re in the chair. But it’s not, it’s all about me. Because if I make you look and feel good, I’m gonna feel like a million bucks.’ And that’s what it is.”
Please email any questions or concerns about this story to: email@example.com.