When Delores Angelillo-Ward opened Concept 1 Unisex Beauty Salon in 1969, it was only the third hair salon in New Paltz. The others, “Powder Box” and “William’s,” are both long gone, but her establishment still thrives despite the considerable competition in town these days. And before you go thinking that a golden anniversary must signify a “sweet little old lady” as proprietor of this business, think again. Delores’s vibrant personality, and her stylish looks that, as it happens, shave at least a decade off her real age of 75, belie any thoughts of that.
Delores, in fact, prides herself on keeping up to date with the latest trends in the industry. She has continued to update her education over the years by studying the latest methods and fine-tuning her skills with experts in the field that include Paul Mitchell in New York City and Martin Parsons. When asked if her salon specializes in any particular area of hair care, Delores notes that she “does it all.”
The secret to her long-lasting business, she says, “is that I love people and I like my work. And people like my work.” Referencing Anthony Mancinelli, the 107-year-old barber still cutting hair in New Windsor, Delores says she has no plans to pack it in any time soon and may just give Mr. Mancinelli a run for his money in the longevity department.
When New Paltz Times stopped by the salon recently to chat with Delores, she was doing the hair of a longtime customer and friend, Shirley Fina, who told us why she keeps coming back to Concept 1. “Delores is always so nice to everybody. And she always does such a good job; I trust her. I like what she does and I just let her go.”
The salon at 14 Apple Road is in a quiet neighborhood of New Paltz, away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street but still easy to get to. The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 7 p.m. closing on Thursday evenings. Delores is the primary stylist there, but her daughter, Lori Lillimagi-Boehm, a skilled hair stylist and tattoo artist with her own business, is available for appointments on Fridays. Walk-ins are always welcome, and the shop carries a full line of Redken hair products.
Delores grew up on a farm in nearby Clintondale, her first exposure to the beauty business from an aunt she greatly admired, who had a beauty salon in the Bronx. By age 12, Delores was practicing newfound hairstyling skills on her mother and other family members. After attending New Paltz High School for a year and graduating from Highland High School, she studied at the Central Academy of Beauty Culture in Newburgh and became a hair care professional herself.
Her first job was at a place called “Mr. John’s” in Poughkeepsie, where she built up a loyal clientele for three years. After becoming licensed in Florida and working there for three years, Delores moved back to the Hudson Valley and Mr. John’s before opening her own salon. “I was really lucky in that I had about five years in Poughkeepsie and had people that followed me here, plus word-of-mouth advertising from them. It’s a little challenging now, because there’s probably at least 15 salons in New Paltz. But you know what; that’s okay. I just do what I do and whoever I get, I’m happy.”
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock concert, which brings to mind images of concertgoers in tie-dye with long, unstyled hair. But when Delores thinks back to the beginning of her career, it’s the big bouffants she remembers fondly. “I hope those come back some day!” she says with a laugh. “I loved doing those! And in Florida, they were so popular.” She remembers having her kids in the salon with her while she worked; Lori shy but Frank, Jr. doing magic tricks to entertain the clientele.
When it comes to the customers, she says she finds that they’re pretty much the same today as they were back then. “I pay so much attention to them, and really give them their time, and that’s what people have always liked, I think.” Advances in technology haven’t really affected her business much, other than her son signing her up on Facebook. “My business is mostly word-of-mouth, I have to say. And it really doesn’t feel like I’ve been around for so long. Fifty years is a long time! I’m pretty proud of that, having the business last.”
She chose New Paltz as the location for her salon because it was a place she has always liked, she says. “And it was a great place to bring up my kids.” In addition to daughter Lori, Delores has a son, Frank DeMaio, who is dad to her two grandchildren, Luca and Frank, Jr. (Franceso). She currently lives in Highland with her husband, Fred Ward.
“There’s just something special about New Paltz,” she adds. “Everybody is unique; everybody is who they want to be. You can go downtown and find somebody who is 75 with grey hair and a ponytail and you’ve got somebody else who’s 75 with hair that’s colored and styled. They all do what they want. And I love that.”
Concept 1 Unisex Beauty Salon is located at 14 Apple Road. To make an appointment, call (845) 255-8586.