It all started with the braids, says Brigette Lewis. Whenever the longtime New Paltz-based hair stylist wasn’t behind the chair in a salon, she was taking her entrepreneurial venture, “Signature Braids,” to fairs and festivals in the region, setting up a booth and braiding hair for fair-goers. She plied her trade at birthday parties, where all the guests got braids, and taught others how to create special braids. Now, after holding down a chair rental for the past four years at the former Clip Joint in New Paltz, Lewis has taken over the space from retired salon owner John Milici and renamed it “Suite 124 Salon.” The cozy shop will serve as home for not only Signature Braids and other hairstyling services by Lewis, but those of a trio of women who will each run their own independent hairstyling business there.
Located at 124 Main Street in the village’s Pine Professional Center, tucked away just behind the driveway entrance, Suite 124 Salon is “kind of like the house where we all reside,” says Lewis. “I never wanted to have employees; I like the idea of people being independent and doing their own thing. That was my idea in creating this space, and it just happens that this whole ‘salon suite’ thing is a trend in our industry right now. There’s been a shift for stylists to share the common areas but work for themselves, and I wanted to offer that.”
Her sister, Erin Scoville, is one of the stylists who works out of the space. She, too, rented a chair at The Clip Joint for the past four years and also offers braiding. “We’ve been a tag-team hairstylist duo for 20 years,” Lewis says. “It was kind of a symbiotic thing that happened.” Her sister “really loves her work and has fun with it,” Lewis says, joking that her own clients like to book appointments for Thursdays, the only day the two sisters work together, just for “the show.” Erin, she adds, “is dedicated to giving it all to her clients. She genuinely loves making people happy, and this is a wonderful avenue to do that, to send people out the door into the world with a whole new outlook and energy.”
Sylvia Peters, whose business is known as “Hair by Sylvia,” is a longtime friend and stylist who went to beauty school with Lewis years ago. “I knew Sylvia would be a great fit here to take over John’s clientele,” Lewis says. “She knows customer service, and she takes the time to make it a great experience for people. She knows how to talk to them and I could just envision what would happen here between her and clients, and know that they would walk out happy with whatever look they wanted, that she gave them.”
The newest addition to Suite 124 Salon is Jenaé Yelina, who does hair as “Styled by Jenaé.” When looking for another stylist, Lewis says, she felt it was important to find the right person. “Because there’s a certain vibe I want to maintain here; positive and easygoing. I wanted someone who, when people come in here, would sense that and feel comfortable, they’d leave happy, and that’s really the main point.”
Originally from the New Paltz area, Yelina has most recently been working in the city, where she’s known for precision in her cutting edge styles. She uses French haircutting techniques and offers specialty haircare services like wig styling. Travel around the world has influenced her style, and she is a “platform” hair artist, who demonstrates techniques to other professionals.
“The women that are here are all so talented,” says Lewis. “I would sit in their chair.”
As for Lewis, in addition to the braids, she specializes in curly hair. “I started noticing that people with curly hair, textured and thick hair, were sitting in my chair; people who needed a real three-dimensional shape where the hair can kind of live in reaction to the elements. So ‘curly girls’ became another niche for me. And razor cuts, really sculpting and shaping the hair. I love working with texture.” Lewis is also a Redken Artist, certified by the Redken haircolor company to offer advanced continuing education on color processes to other professionals.
Originally from Florida, New York, Lewis came up to New Paltz to finish her degree at the college. “I always loved doing hair, but I never planned on being a fulltime hairstylist,” she says. “This career kind of chose me.” She put herself through school doing hair, first working at Studio One in town and even putting up a sign-in sheet at the metalsmithing studio on the SUNY campus, cutting hair on Saturday afternoons for other students who would “take a break from their torches to sit in my chair and get shaped up.”
Lewis earned a degree in art education with a focus on metal work. Her art background obviously comes into the picture when it comes to a career that involves sculpting and shaping form, and she enjoys using those talents, too, in situations like painting the faux marbled wall she recently completed in the new salon. Her uncle, Norman Paulsen, also a metalsmith, has his work showcased in a display on the salon wall, his wine holders and metal handles and such available for purchase. Lewis says she likes the idea of growing the space from an artistic, creative perspective through retail, offering not so much a boutique but supplementing the hairstyling by bringing in items by local artisans.
She can also see herself opening another chair rental salon in the future, she adds, empowering more people to work independently. She no longer works the number of festivals she used to as Signature Braids, but still does two shows per year: the Dutchess County Fair and Warwick Applefest.
Lewis plans to offer braiding classes at the salon from time to time, with the first to be held on Wednesday, June 7 at 4 p.m. Braids are often done for formal occasions, but they’re practical and fun for everyday life, as well, Lewis points out. (One friend asked her to braid her hair before she went into labor, so she would look good in the photos afterward; not a bad idea!) And when someone learns how to braid, it’s not only a useful thing to be able to apply to friends and family but a niche skill they can utilize to make some extra money themselves. (Lewis is, of course, a licensed professional, but the state doesn’t require a license to do braiding.)
The salon has a “shabby chic” vibe and a neighborhood feel. “Clients love coming to this space,” says Lewis. “They love that there’s plenty of parking, even though it’s located in downtown New Paltz.” Hours are Monday through Saturday, with evenings available. (Each stylist keeps their own schedule; see below for hours and contact info.) They carry products by Redken, Deva and Pureology as well as Made With Love, the line by local all-natural skincare artisan, Michele Tomasicchio.
And while there are a lot of other hair salons in New Paltz and the surrounding areas, Lewis says she doesn’t see them as “competition,” in a negative way. “I’ve thought about getting an awesome artist/educator in to do some demonstrations and open it up to all the other salons in the area. I don’t know where we’d be able to have it, but I love this industry, and anyone that wants to celebrate or share, let’s do it!”