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It’s a Tuesday afternoon and there are close to 30 employees in Schardein’s salon but there are no client bookings. Why would this normally bustling salon block their appointment books for two hours every week? A commitment to education, that’s why.

Owner Steve Schardein had a dream, and it wasn’t just to run a salon, it was to create a place that could help his staff become better members of their community. “I’m trying to change the perception many people have that we’re ‘just hairdressers.’“ Steve says.

Schardein, who began in the industry in 1976, offers full-time employment to his stylists, offering professional education and encouraging his staff to carve out a career. His philosophy has made a difference in the lives of his employees and not just while they’re on the clock.

“We have four new homeowners and we have people getting married and starting families. That’s what I love to see,” Schardein says.

At a time when many businesses are cutting back hours so employees don’t get full-time, or reducing benefits, Schardein’s is creating a place where people can thrive and grow.

Six years ago Craig Jackson was sitting in a chair getting his hair washed when he decided he wanted to work at Schardein’s. He was a shy young man who had difficulty communicating with people. Now he’s not only a busy stylist, he’s one of the leaders at Schardein’s, confidently working with the public and guiding staff through training.

“The first time I came in here as a client, I knew I wanted to work here because of the positive vibe,” Jackson says. The benefits haven’t been lost on those close to him. “My friends and family notice the positive change in me.”

Beverly Harlow has been at Schardein’s for six years and is the education leader. “I knew I wanted to work here because of their emphasis on education,” she says. “I wanted a career instead of a job.”

In an industry where there can be high employee turnover, Schardein’s roster is speckled with veterans. Daniel Quinn, one of the salon’s busiest stylists has been there for nearly nine years. He serves as a mentor to younger stylists and has earned respect for his hard work and busy appointment book. “People here want to be what he is – he’s busy,” Schardein says.

Not only is Quinn busy – Schardein’s is busy. The salon located at 9501 N. May Avenue is one of the most popular in Oklahoma City. The state of the art 6,700-foot complex can best be described as the Taj Mahal of salons. If you like to be pampered, Schardein’s is like something out of a dream. Picture the treatment given to the scarecrow, cowardly lion, tin man, and Dorothy by the attendants in Oz.

Many salons stumble when bringing in young stylists fresh from their training, but Schardein recognized an opportunity and seized it. The New Talent Salon employs 8-10 stylists who have recently or nearly completed their certification. In a special section of the salon, these young stylists offer haircuts, styling, and color. As a result, they learn how to build a clientele, work on techniques, and are mentored by an established stylist. It also gives often younger clients a chance to receive a trendy fashion cut at a lower price point. For Schardein’s this is a way to extend their offering to the customer while also guiding these young stylists into the fold.

In essence, Steve wants these stylists to learn “The Schardein Way.” Steve Schardein’s hands have not forgotten the feel of a comb and scissors — he still cuts hair and insists on it. “I need to lead by example, and I love being with our clients so I know what’s important to them,” he says. It’s another example of premium customer service and attention to detail. It’s working — Schardein’s maintains a 90 percent client retention rate. But there’s always room for growth.

Last year while Steve was at a Thunder Game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, he marveled at the thousands of fans in attendance. “I wondered, where are all these people getting their hair done? There are always more people we can help.” Sending the customer out the door looking and feeling more beautiful is one of Schardein’s goals. Two years ago, Steve had a conversation with client Dr. Tim Love, a noted Oklahoma City plastic surgeon who helps clients with hair loss. Out of that brief talk, Schardein and Love decided to combine efforts to educate people about hair loss, something that impacts both of their businesses.

Dr. Tim R. Love, MD performs hair transplant procedures and Schardein wanted to be able to help his customers get help if they had hair loss. The Schardein staff learned how to speak to their clients about hair loss as well as methods for working with restored hair. Steve Schardein even underwent the procedure himself to see what it was like.

The salon’s commitment to Oklahoma City extends beyond its four walls. Schardein’s has donated time and resources to help several causes, including the Battered Women’s Shelter. “We support each other, we support our clients, and we try to support the community,” Jackson says.

All of the things the salon is doing: their dedication to training and education, the cutting edge salon techniques and use of technology, the New Talent Salon that helps young stylists enter the industry, the almost fanatical care they show for their employees personal growth, is why Steve Schardein got into this business.

“This is my dream,” Schardein says as he waves his hands toward his staff while they take part in training. “I want them to be happy, productive members of the community. I spend more time with these people than I do with my family.” A family, that’s what Schardein’s feels like, and that’s the refreshing and compassionate way they treat their employees.