O.C. salon owner hangs on to hope as stay-at-home closure threatens to end a 43-year career

Andrew M. Santos

From the time she opened her first shop, Gladys’ House of Hair Design, off Bristol Street and Randolph Avenue in 1977, Gladys Olmedo has maintained a steady business in Costa Mesa.

In her 20s, and pregnant with her second child, Olmedo steadily built a base of satisfied clients who came to her for coloring and styles that would transition over the years, from shag cuts to feathered bangs to Brazilian blowouts.

“I never took a vacation — for 24 years I went without taking vacations,” said Olmedo, an Estancia High School graduate. “I had to provide for my kids, and I did it through the beauty salon, just doing hair.”

Her son, Daniel Schantz, recalled growing up in the shop as the business expanded from two chairs to five and new stylists came on board. He recalled the salon as his personal childhood playground and a mainstay for Olmedo, who managed to raise three children on her own.

“That shop has been her bread and butter,” Schantz said. “She was taught by the best and she truly is a hidden secret in Costa Mesa.”

Gladys Olmeda holds the prestigious Kerazon, a hair salon of the year award, in the Hairsculptor.com salon in Costa Mesa.

Gladys Olmeda holds the prestigious Kerazon, a hair salon of the year award, in the Hairsculptor.com salon in Costa Mesa.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A steep rent increase in 2009 forced Olmedo to relocate to a small storefront off Costa Mesa’s Harbor Boulevard and reopen under the name Hairsculptor.com. Specializing in blowouts, keratin treatments and wavy balayage styles, the salon has served more than 95,000 clients and has garnered high praise on Yelp.com.

All that came to a screeching halt in March, when businesses were forced to close as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout California. And despite some minor reprieves, like a brief flirtation with outdoor haircuts this summer, a successfully built business is now barely surviving.

A regional stay-at-home order issued by state health officials in December restricted the operations of many business sectors in Southern California but mandated the total closure of salons like Hairsculptor.com.

Now, Olmedo said she must pay a mortgage on her Santa Ana home as well as rent for the shop, even after forgiving rental payments owed her by her own stylists, to the tune of about $3,500 a month and with scant revenue coming in.

Gladys Olmeda and her son, Daniel Schantz, at Hairsculptor.com in Costa Mesa.

Gladys Olmeda, right, and her son, Daniel Schantz, at Hairsculptor.com in Costa Mesa. To help his mother survive a pandemic-related closure, Schantz started a GoFundMe campaign.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The salon owner has sought assistance through a small business loan and state grant program. Last week, Olmedo said she applied for Costa Mesa’s new bridge grant program, which aims to support restaurants and personal care businesses, and is waiting for a determination.

“This is cancer — when you’re not working, it’s like cancer, money going out the door,” she said. “The loan helped me but there’s no money coming in, so this is going to run out.”

Feeling the pain of his mother’s financial situation Schantz, an out-of-work union carpenter, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds for Hairsculptor.com.

It’s the internet version of a Hail Mary pass in football — the hope a past client or philanthropist will understand the struggle is real and do what they can to help a local business live on.

A GoFundMe campaign supporting Costa Mesa hair salon Hairsculptor.com.

A GoFundMe campaign to help support Costa Mesa hair salon Hairsculptor.com was started by Daniel Schantz, son of owner Gladys Olmedo.

(Screenshot by Sara Cardine)

“At first, I was embarrassed to try something like this, but I felt I needed to do something for my mom. I’m afraid she’s not going to be able to pay rent,” Schantz said. “All you can do is just try and hope there’s someone out there who’s generous, anyone who can help.”

As of Thursday night, Schantz’s GoFundMe page has secured one $20 donation.

Personal care services, which include most by-appointment operations like massage businesses, barbershops and nail salons, have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help those enterprises, and local restaurants forced to subsist on takeout traffic, the Costa Mesa City Council last month approved taking nearly $2 million from a declared disasters reserve fund to implement a new grant program for local business owners.

“The one thing businesses do not operate well in is inconsistency,” Dan Inloes, the city’s economic development administrator, said in a Dec. 15 council meeting. “Over the past nine months we’ve had to be versatile and flexible in dealing with a pandemic — this inconsistency is really at the heart of what’s injuring specifically these two types of business.”

A self-described workaholic, whose family came to Costa Mesa from El Salvador in the 1960s and instilled in her a sense of pride for a job well done, Olmedo is down but not out. She will continue to look for loans and other assistance that will help the salon stay afloat.

Closing the business is just not an option.

“I’m an optimistic person. I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “The vaccine is on its way, and I’m hopeful for that. I think we’re going to open up soon.”

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.

Next Post

Theft leads to community giving in Miami

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Two days before Thanksgiving, on the eve of a turkey giveaway for dozens of jobless residents in an impoverished Miami neighborhood, Sherina Jones got word that one of the free community refrigerators she’d been stocking was stolen. It could have been a holiday disaster. But […]