Owner Dan Focarelli and stylist Kelly Dwyer at Head Ways Salon in Hamilton. Photo by Sarah Unger.

By Sarah Unger

The roar of blow dryers fills the air as stylists foil, rinse, and cut fresh new angles into the tresses of clients. A pony-tailed woman, her nails drying, sits patiently by a light-flooded window framing the traffic outside.

Lisa McDonald files a client’s nails with quick precision. Amid the midweek buzz of activity in his Head Ways salon, owner Dan Focarelli took time out to talk about how he and the staff of his full-service salon keep clients looking current, polished, and coming back for more.

“We have nice relationships” with clients, Focarelli said, “but we never lose sight of the fact that people are here to get their hair done. We try to treat everyone like it’s their first time>” They never shy away from making a suggestion for an updated look. He and his staff visit shows to stay current on styles. And while Head Ways is “not an overly edgy-trendy kind of salon,” he said, “we’re always ready to help you transition into a new look. Sometimes you need a little bit of a nudge.”

“Once in a while we’ll do some really funky stuff, especially Kelly [Dwyer, a stylist at the salon] and the younger people. We definitely can drift into the avant garde.” But that’s not the salon’s main niche, Focarelli said.

Instead, the Head Ways styling philosophy is to take current styles, then customize them to the real person sitting in the chair, focusing on facial structure, height, personality and career.

“We cater to mainstream folks, but keep them stylish,” he said.

The salon is located at 2238 Nottingham Way, just off of Interstate 295 — “Exit 63, don’t blink,” Focarelli said. He feels the placement of his brick building makes it an easy destination for clients from throughout Mercer County and even as far south as Cherry Hill.

But convenience is just a small part of his business’s success, he said. He’s proud of the continuity of his stylists, as the majority have been on staff for at least 10 years.

A native of Trenton’s Chambersburg section, Focarelli received his training as a protégé, or apprentice, starting at age 10. Although he also entertained thoughts of growing up to be a professional soccer player one day, his flair for the creative won out. After working for years for Italian-born family friend and hair stylist Lorenzo, Focarelli became licensed in the early 1980s. He eventually left Lorenzo’s to join another business in Hamilton before opening his own.

Focarelli holds an equal love for the creativity of styling and engaging with clients.

“It’s just a passion that developed at a very early age,” he said.

When he was still a boy finding his way around a head of hair, Focarelli said, it was “not unusual to do a two-hour haircut” in his basement, “sometimes longer.”

Though he still considers himself a perfectionist, he’s much more efficient when it comes to bringing new life to someone’s look with what he considers to be an art form.

Despite his dislike for clichés, there’s one Focarelli can’t avoid when he describes the salon as the proverbial family: His cousin Concetta is a stylist, and his wife’s cousin Nicole is as well. His partner Angela Bender is his sister-in-law. And Bianca, Focarelli’s youngest of three children “already claims she’s going to be a stylist.”

“We’re lucky to have our staff, and we’re lucky to have our clients coming back to us and having the confidence to recommend us to their friends, family, and coworkers,” he said.

Head Ways is open Tuesday through Saturday and can be reached at (609) 588-4944.