From Military to Salon: Brian Graham

It’s funny, how many people we meet that don’t start out as hairdressers. Often times, they started out their working life in some completely unrelated profession, but were exposed to or reminded of their love of making people feel beautiful by some random experience or twist of fate. Such was the case with Brian Graham, a hairdresser and salon owner that we happened to meet and in hindsight, it would seem because fate willed it so.

To give Brian’s story some context, let me tell you how we came to meet him.

While chatting with a boutique owner in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, we couldn’t help but notice a row of elegant candles nestled under glass cloches that lined the checkout counter. It turns out, the candles were made by a local salon owner as part of a community charity initiative. As luck would have it, his salon was right around the corner and didn’t close for another 30 minutes.

Finding Brian’s salon was a breeze (literally, around the corner), a lovely large-front windowed space with a wall of retail products so long it made you want to run alongside it, laughing and throwing bottles, tubs and aerosol cans into the air with glee. The receptionist was friendly and Brian was gracious enough to agree to chat with us once he finished up his last client.

None of us, Brian especially, knew what to expect.

At first impression, he is a quiet, reserved man. Not especially tall, but not short either, with the impeccable style sense that all men from Minneapolis seem to be born with. He took us on a tour of his surprisingly large space. From the brightly lit main floor, with it’s warm dark wood, rough stone accents and incredible sliding barn doors that could close off the shampoo area, the entire space was equal parts warm and luxurious as well as unfussy and inviting. Speaking of the shampoo area, instead of chairs at sinks, Brian Graham Salon uses slanted tables, meaning clients can lie on an angle as they are being shampooed or rinsed, for a more relaxing experience (and less strain on the neck).

Throughout the tour, Brian was polite, congenial and respectful. In a word: professional. At this point we weren’t sure that we’d even be getting an actual interview, or just a tour. When we all sat down in the color processing area, that’s when the magic happened. We asked Brian how he got started in the salon industry and it was as though someone flipped a switch. He sat back a little, he smiled and he got to talking.

I decided that maybe HR wasn’t really for me.

Brian had not had the smoothest of childhoods. He was in and out of trouble as a young teen and had no clue or desire to find a direction. He enrolled in the military, because he didn’t really know what else to do and he felt it might give him some direction and discipline. While serving, he discovered a knack for working with people and decided to pursue a career in Human Resources. It was a good, steady, respectable path, but it wasn’t the one for Brian.

“I remember going to visit a buddy of mine who was doing hair at the time. I just loved being there, I could watch him work for hours. I couldn’t get enough. I also remembered how my mom loved going to her hairdresser, how good it made her feel and how happy everyone was there. I decided that maybe HR wasn’t really for me.”

From there, Brian trained at the Aveda Institute and began a successful career as a hairdresser and now, salon owner. His collaboration with friend and graphic designer Thomas Kane, the candles we spotted at the boutique, was just a further extension of his creative expression. The unlikely duo came together over a shared love of beautiful things and Peace— a line of beautiful, exquisitely scented, luxury candles was born.

Maybe by deliberate choice, maybe by coincidence, Brian’s salon is a direct reflection of his persona and career path. The space begins wide open, bright and full of objects (retail products, stations, plants, art) and progressively becomes more sparsely decorated and focused on a specific purpose. The feeling of the salon parallels the decor becoming warmer and more home-y through dimmed lighting, increased uses of stone original to the centuries-old building, lower ceilings and darker paint colors.

Stepping into Brian Graham Salon and meeting the man himself, you are taken into his personal journey. One full of discovery, pursuit of passion and the kind of dogged determination unique to people in uniform…and hairdressers.

To learn more about Brian Graham Salon, visit their website HERE.

To learn more about Peace by Graham & Kane, visit their site (with shop!) HERE.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *