This Bay Ridge salon opener took the gamble of a lifetime when she opened her shop at the dawn of the recession, but an obsession with the latest techniques has helped carve her a niche
Olympia Colandrea has always had a passion for hair.
“Even when I was a little girl I was obsessed with the fashion industry and anything and everything that had to do with style and beauty,” the salon owner noted. “I can remember cutting my friends’ bangs and putting together all kinds of styles and outfits before school. Being a fashionista was just always in my blood.”
So, when she came to the United States at the age of 15 from her hometown on the northwest tip of Italy’s Naples Bay, she was inspired to pursue a career in the beauty industry.
“I enrolled in Ultissima Beauty School on 86th Street in Bensonhurst and started building my career at a small shop in Carroll Gardens,” Colandrea said. “Then I took a job at a salon in Bay Ridge, then worked in Merrick, Long Island, before I decided to open up my own place.”
With more than two decades of salon experience under her belt, Colandrea chose to make her very first entrepreneurial experience something big.
“I started my business at a challenging time in 2007 when the economy was tanking, and it honestly went against all common sense to start an endeavor like this,” she recalled about DaNoi on Fifth, a salon and spa that has been offering trendy beauty services in Bay Ridge for the past seven years. “But I knew if I held my own and offered quality service in a great, inviting atmosphere, the clients would come.”
So Colandrea, joined by her daughter Daniella DiBenedetto on the business end, filled her busi- ness with a talented and experienced staff, and the interior with a warm, welcoming décor.
“When we first started, the shop was pretty much a 1,500-square-foot vanilla box,” Colandrea said. “But we came in and created a real atmosphere. We worked with different colors and shapes, got creative with our stations, and made everything buzz. Downstairs was totally raw, so we soundproofed and drenched it in candlelight.”
The business gradually grew, and Colandrea took over the building next door. She installed color and blowout bars, added three makeup sta- tions, and five more styling chairs.
“We doubled our size in seven years, which was a testament to our staff and clientele,” the owner said. “I built my career in this neighborhood so many years ago, and many of my clients are still with me.”
In addition to offering cutting-edge hair and makeup services, Da Noi also serves as a teaching salon; Colandrea hosts “academies” every Tuesday, during which educators, top stylists, and members of her artistic team educate the staff on new styling techniques and tools.
“It’s all about education,” she observed. “Whoever joins our staff—whether they’re girls at the blowout bar or junior stylists—they are all continually educated by top artists in the business, and on a regular basis.”
In the salon, Colandrea focuses on the industry’s lat- est services. Trending now? A more transitional ombre that comes closer to the root, pure pigment hair color in shades of purple, blue and other pas- tels, and edgy, disconnected haircuts with short sides and a long, unblended top.
“It’s a special technique performed by only very tal- ented and trained stylists,” she explained.
In the spa, Da Noi offers a range of massage, facial, and skin rejuvenation services.
“We use Elos technology, for example, that works on radiofrequency,” Colandrea said. “It reproduces collagen in a natural way, and offers a skin tightening effect.”
There’s also laser hair removal, organic skin and body treatments, waxing, and threading services.
“Women are keen, of course, to find a process that will keep them youthful. And with so many treatments out there right now, they don’t have to go down without a fight.” Colandrea’s main focus, however, is keeping Bay Ridge beautiful.
“This neighborhood has been affected by an influx of sub-standard salons that have really negatively affected the industry,” she noted. “They offer cheap services that are of poor quality, so much so that a good part of our business has become focused on hair color-and cut-correction. I know the economy is tough, but there’s a reason why they’re offering hair color services for $30. Quality color costs at least double that, simply because the skill and attention to detail required is significant.”
In the future, Colandrea hopes to expand her business even further and open another location in the city, but for now, she’s focused on beautiful, warm-weather trends.
“This summer, you’ll see a lot of transitional ombre with more honey and peek-a-boo highlighting,” she predicted. “I also think we’ll transition away from very long lengths and into more shoulder-length styles that really frame the face.”
Photos By Jon Gordon