By Léo Azambuja
Rick Semonian has been a successful hairdresser and salon owner on Kaua‘i for the last 13 years. But the trendy Boston-native — a minority on his field — says he still has a boss.
“She’s a huge part of this business, she’s the boss, there’s not doubt about it,” he said of his business partner and wife of 21 years, Anne Marie Semonian.
Together, they own Boston Hair Design in Lihu‘e, a full-service salon offering everything from haircuts, coloring, bridal and fashion services to facials, manicure, pedicure and even massages.
“I actually had my massage this morning, every Wednesday,” Rick said.
He met Anne Marie at work, some 27 years ago in Boston. He has been working with his wife, his “best friend,” for so long that he cannot imagine working without her, he said. They make a good team and often help each other to improve.
“Having a partner like her has been awesome for me, she makes me look good,” Rick said.
His history with the industry, however, dates back to when he was still a child.
“My family owned a barber shop when I was young,” Rick said, adding he worked as barber back in the day. “I was around the industry my hole life.”
After college, he said he had to “grow up and get a life,” and working at a salon seemed like a good life. When asked if he thought it would be a good way to meet girls, Rick said, “Yes,” laughing. But his plans, he said, backfired and he met one really quickly.
“But I’m happy with her, so that’s good,” said Rick, still laughing.
After Hurricane ‘Iniki hit Kaua‘i, Rick and Anne Marie came here for their honeymoon and fell in love with the island. Years later, they would move here and open Boston Hair Design. Their business thrived for 12 years in Puhi, but exactly a year ago, they moved to a larger, better location on Rice Street, in the same complex as Ha Coffee Bar.
“We came in here and gutted this place, and that’s what we came up with, kinda of an industrial feel, feels like back home, it’s different from anything on the island as well — this is us,” he said.
Including Rick and Anne Marie, Boston Hair Design has nine hairdressers, two masseuses and a manicurist.
Rick said it may be hard for small businesses to succeed on Kaua‘i, but taking pride in what they do, having strong work ethics and having the education they’ve had, is a good formula for success.
Another key ingredient, he said, is finding people who understand leadership and work as a unit.
“There can’t be any superstars,” Rick said. “Everybody has to work together, especially in this industry, you have to be as one.”
It also gets a little tricky on Kaua‘i. The island, he said, is a place that is easier to fall into an “I’ll to it tomorrow” kind of attitude.
But Rick seems to know how to separate things and juice the most out of life.
“Life for me is balance, you’ve got to have balance,” he said. “I’ll work hard, but I like to play hard too. If I’m not surfing, I’m golfing, if I’m not golfing, I’m working, it’s either one of the three.”
As far as keeping up with the rest of the industry, Rick said he and his wife usually attend hair shows on the Mainland. Las Vegas has a large one every year that they try to attend.
For young aspiring stylists living on Kaua‘i, it may seem like the end of the road here — the closest hairdressing school is on O‘ahu. But Rick said they don’t have to leave the island, they can find a salon willing to apprentice them.
He said he has had several kids apprentice at Boston Hair Design. They get a “top-notch education” and save some money too, he said.
“The trick is to find someone that is going to teach you, someone that is not going to have you sweep the floor all day, someone that’s going to take you under their wing and show you the business,” Rick said.
Boston Hair Design is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are on 4180 Rice St. Suite 107, and can be reached at 241-7575.