• The $3 Haircut

    By Winston Chua

    The Alhambra Beauty College is busy with activity.Blow-dryers, combs, salon chairs an scissors all fill the air as customers andstylists do their best to make the world a more attractive place.

    As San Gabriel Valley residents brace for the worstin these trying economic times, there is a bright spot: the $3 haircut.

    “I love it,” said Alhambra Beauty College directorJennifer Hong. “I want to see people look good.”

    Jennifer and her husband Peter are owners of thehaircut salon that boasts the cheapest price in Alhambra, if not the entire SanGabriel Valley. They can afford to offer haircuts this low because many of thepeople who will cut your hair are students.

    The Hongs said they are not in it for the money, butmore to give students the opportunities to succeed in cosmetology.

    Students from such cities as San Gabriel, Pasadena,Montebello and Monterey Park study such subjects as cosmetology, or committheir lives to become estheticians (skin care) or manicurists.

    “My wife has always been interested in education,”said Peter, of how his wife became involved with the college. “She has passion,patience and loves to train people.” Jennifer spent the vast majority of herlife in Taiwan, studying business management and accounting before coming tothe States in the mid 80s. Her husband Peter came in 1982 before he studied lawin Loyola Law School.

    Founded in 1927, the hair cut place is one of thefirst accredited institutions to teach cosmetology, which is technicallydefined is the study and application of beauty treatment.

    There are three main programs offered by the beautycollege. One can choose to study cosmetology, become an esthetician or amanicurist, although the competition to become a manicurist has increasedbecause of competition from Vietnamese vendors. The cosmetology program is 1600 hours, to become an esthetician requires600 hours and to become a manicurist takes 400 hours of training.

    And for the bulk of those 80 years, there has been byfar no better place to get a good haircut for less money.

    “I love it,” said Enas Almamani, 21, a student who isthankful for the program. “For me, it’s about putting smiles on people’sfaces.”

    Peter and Jennifer are also trying to put smiles ontheir students’ faces as well. They not only teach beauty, but the businessbehind the beauty.

    “In this economy, it’s a tough environment tosurvive,” said Peter. “We must teach the students how to cope with it.”

    That means encouraging students to improve theirEnglish skills and giving them lessons on management and sales. Financialscholarships and grants are also available to qualifying students.

    There is reasonable concern for those who do not wanta bad haircut, but Jennifer said that students spend up to 450 hours practicingon dolls and wigs until a teacher deems them competent enough to cut real hair.And if a customer still isn’t satisfied, a more experienced instructor willgladly straighten out the loose ends. If there is one thing that is different,said Peter, it is that sometimes students will cut the hair a little slower andmore carefully than surrounding salons.

    Still, the service has attracted faithful customers,who have kept coming back to the college for more than 20 years.

    Looking good is of the utmost importance to thecollege. And being presentable in today’s job market is as important as ever.

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