A new hair care and beauty training and retail center is coming to downtown Schenectady — a $2 million investment projected to create 50 jobs and give 250 students another option to learn the trade of caring for skin and hair.
The Paul Mitchell school at 411 State St. will be the third in New York and the first upstate.
Giulio Veglio, a Schenectady native who will own the school, said the location should open by February, but he’s not in a rush.
“We want to make it perfect,” he said.
The decision to put a school in the city was largely a result of redevelopment efforts — Veglio said he had a vision of Schenectady becoming a smaller version of New York City’s Times Square.
“Every time I turned around something was going on. I was happy to go in and fill the space,” Veglio said. “We had to be a part of this.”
Paul Mitchell Schools is signing a 15-year lease with major developer the Galesi Group to occupy the basement and first floor of 411 State St.
“This brings new meaning to our downtown beautification project,” Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton said at Thursday’s ceremony marking the announcement.
Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen credited much of the progress made in downtown Schenectady to a united front among Schenectady’s county, city, and business community.
“Everybody is rowing the boat in the same direction,” he said.
Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage said the Paul Mitchell training facility and retail store represents another major investment in the county.
Paul Mitchell is a $900 million company that sells its hair care products in 70,000 salons in 44 countries, she said.
Beginning in 2002, Paul Mitchell began opening beauty schools nationwide — the first in Utah. There are now 107 such schools in the United States.
Veglio owns and operates 10 other Paul Mitchell schools in the U.S. His background also includes working with top Italian designer Jean Michelle, Vidal Sassoon in London and L’Oreal in Paris.
A larger part of Veglio’s vision for Schenectady is to give back to a place that gave so much to him.
“In school, I wasn’t the smartest student gradewise,” Veglio said, reminiscing on the days he was often sent out of classrooms for not being able to sit still.
Veglio later found out that he had a number of anxiety and learning problems, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.
“A lot of people think beauty school is something for people who didn’t do well. That is so untrue,” Veglio said. “I’ve always done it for one reason — the kids. To tap into these kids’ gifts and to see what they’re capable of — that’s what I love.”
Giulio Veglio grew up in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood, going to Hamilton Elementary, Steinmetz Junior High and Mont Pleasant High School.
His mother and father came to Schenectady from southern Italy when he was 5 years old to start their version of the American Dream — leading to Veglio’s fond memories of downtown parades and stores.
He would go on to open up what is now the Zen Hair Studio in Clifton Park in 1993 and become a master associate with the Paul Mitchell company, a company he joined in 1987. The company was founded by hairdressers John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell in 1980, based on a hair care system line of products focused on the method of “hair sculpting.”
Despite his school issues, Veglio said he learned to cater to his strengths as a visionary, and delegate the things he wasn’t good at.
By 2002, when Veglio would leave the area for several years, he had watched the hometown of his warm childhood memories decline, with rundown, dilapidated buildings and crime-ridden areas. Veglio longed to see a different Schenectady.
In December, he did.
The owners of the Villa Italia bakery gave Veglio a tour of downtown Schenectady, one of many places in upstate New York that Veglio was considering.
“We looked everywhere in upstate New York and there’s no place like home,” he said.
From there, a deal was worked out between Veglio, Metroplex and the Galesi Group.
Metroplex’s financial package to Veglio includes a $311,400 grant and a $250,000 loan at 5 percent interest to cover opening costs. Gillen previously said Metroplex will recoup the grant within four years through the lease of parking spaces.
big house out
The building at 411 State St. was originally planned as a second location for the Capital Region’s Big House, a restaurant, dance club and bar. Gillen has previously said the renovations turned out to be more extensive than expected.
Gillen said the building’s former owner, Stephen Waite, “took the project as far as he could.”
Veglio said there are jobs left unfilled nationwide in the beauty industry.
“There’s one thing that a computer won’t do is cut hair,” Veglio said.
The school will offer courses between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. during weekdays for full-time and part-time students, Veglio said.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the overall employment for barbers, cosmetologists and personal appearance workers to grow by 14 percent from 2006 to 2016.
About 46 percent of all barbers, cosmetologists, and other personal appearance workers are self-employed, according to the BLS.
Veglio said his school teaches students the skills for the trade but also the ability to craft a business plan and know the importance of giving back to the communities they came from.
Faith Takes, CEO of Empire Education, which is the parent company of the Austin School of Spa Technology and its sister school, Mildred Elley, said there isn’t a negative impact on enrollment from another cosmetology school opening in the area — there’s enough students to go around.
“We really welcome them to the neighboring city. The growth of the beauty industry in the Capital Region has been exponential. I think Paul Mitchell will bring just another great option for aspiring beauty professionals,” said Takes. “We think there is plenty of demand. We don’t anticipate any dip.”
Takes said the demand for cosmetologists, barbers and nail technicians is consistent and growing.
Since 2005, when Empire Education purchased Austin, the school has grown from 57 students to close to 300 students currently.
In September, the Austin school moved into a new building at 855 Central Ave.
“We’ve seen even more growth since we’ve moved here,” Takes said.