AFTER 15 YEARS BUILDING CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL SALON, PROPRIETORS OF THE STATEN ISLAND STAPLE CELEBRATE THE OPENING OF TWO ADDITIONAL LOCATIONS
BY AMANDA McCOY PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
Christopher Le-Vine first met Michael Tortorella, his future business partner, when he applied for a job at Tortorella’s Staten Island hair salon not long after finishing beauty school in Manhattan. Although the recent graduate had trained at prominent salons throughout the city, he wanted to return to his home borough to build his career in the industry. The pair developed a strong rapport, and Le-Vine quickly worked his way up in the salon, gaining recognition and respect from its owner. When Tortorella had plans in the early aughts to close up shop and open a new location in West Brighton, he knew who he wanted for his new business partner.
“I worked hard…worked my way up,” recalled Le-Vine. “He asked me if I wanted to open a new salon with him, and that was my dream. It’s the reason I went to school. I’ve always wanted to open and design multiple salons of my own.”
In 2003, Christopher Michael Salon officially opened its doors on Forest Avenue, offering a full service menu that includes professional cuts and color, styling, makeup application, hair treatments, waxing, threading, and nails. When the owners originally found the site of the West Brighton location, the interior was far from the brightly lit, stylish digs it consists of today.
“The location was an old meat store, and when we took it over there was nothing in it,” said Le-Vine. “There were no wires; the landlord had it striped. We built and designed everything completely from scratch.”
The new business partners embraced the opportunity to design their operation from the ground up, taking a blank canvas and creating a warm space that would quickly become a go to salon for many Staten Islanders. Its early days were not without hardship, and the young co-owner explained he quickly learned the power of a steadfast work ethic at a formative age.
“I was 22 years old when we first opened,” added Le-Vine, “so I feel like I practically grew up in the salon. It was a learning on the job type of experience. It’s hard work; there are a million hardships, especially when you’re trying to gather your clientele. But I learned that the only people who aren’t successful are the ones who quit.”
Now a decade and a half after its grand opening, Christopher Michael Salon has added two new specialty locations along the same avenue. The site of the Christopher Michael Style Room— specializing in hair and bridal/prom parties was not in need of much construction when the owners acquired the new address. The Christopher Michael Hair Studio, however, was a total blank slate, much like the site of their landmark location. With the help of Emrys Building Consultants, the owners opened the third and newest studio earlier this year. While the owners specialize in cut and color, they brought in a team versed in everything from special occasion updos to French pedicures.
Ardent believers in the importance of continuous education, Tortorella and Le-Vine routinely offer training and advanced education opportunities for their staff, staying after hours to teach and mentor salon assistants.
“We turn assistants into successful hair stylists. If you can get through the first year, and get through being a little broke, you can succeed,” offered Le-Vine with a laugh.
Christopher Michael Salon
520 Forest Avenue / 718.273.3384