I’ll be honest; I’ve had a hard time writing this article about HiFi Hair & Records in Minneapolis, Minnesota and its owner, Jonny Clifford (a.k.a. Jonny Zygomatic). It’s quite possibly due to the fact that I’m truly at a loss for words. I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone this genuine and passionate about what they’re doing with their life and I’ve never walked into a salon space that is such a true representation of that person. Jonny messed with my head a bit, but in a good way.
Maybe I should just start from the beginning…
October of last year (2015), we received an invitation to attend Aveda Congress in Minneapolis. Since we were going to be there for a few days, we thought we’d pop into a few salons and shops, meet some interesting people and gather up some good content to share with you all. Before we headed out, I Googled the words, “really cool hair salons in Minneapolis,” and after browsing through some search results, the words “hair” and “records” appeared side-by-side each other in a Yelp review. This immediately caught my eye, because first and foremost, I like hair, and secondly, I’m a bit of a music enthusiast to say the least and have the vinyl collection to prove it. I checked out his website and immediately fell in love. The words “Music is Fashion” on top of a black and white photo (of what one can only assume was from a very memorable punk rock show) along with the following mission statement:
Hair is what we do, and music is what we love. HiFi is the place where the two make such an obvious bond. Our goal is to provide you with an experience and service beyond your expectations.
I knew right then and there that we just found someone who “gets it.” He knows what he stands for, believes in and what his expectations are—not just for his clients, but also for his staff and for himself. You can see it in his website—through the images chosen and the wording selected to describe the space and the overall experience. I called up HiFi, asked to speak to the owner and proceeded to tell him what Industrie was all about and if he would be interested in letting us come in and interview him and shoot some photos. To say Jonny was happy to oblige is an understatement. He was thrilled. I was thrilled. This was going to be cool.
It’s now the day of our visit with Jonny, who we’ve affectionately deemed “HiFi Guy.” When we rounded the corner of Hennepin Ave, we took note on how the buildings were quite historic in appearance and it was obvious we were in a very “creative” part of Minneapolis. There were a lot of open-spaced workspaces, an Onbeing podcast recording in session and the neighborhood just had this energy to it that is magnetic. Maybe it was largely due to the refreshing lack of gentrification we were seeing in all the other parts of Minneapolis. Then we see a guy sitting on the front stoop of a building and I knew right then and there it was Jonny; leopard Converse, blue jeans, black t-shirt and tattoos. If Tommy Lee from Motley Crue and The Ramones had a child, it would be Jonny. He stood up, gave a warm smile and welcomed us to his space. And then we walked in…
“I have the coolest waiting room in the country,” he laughed and he wasn’t kidding. A window bench covered in red fabric stacked with magazines and music periodicals is on the left, the salon in on the right and if you walked straight ahead you stepped into the record store. CD art, 7-inch and 12-inch LP sleeves, posters, local artwork and photographs of all sizes blanketed the walls, and various knick-knacks that all have a special story were scattered about on any available surface. A working jukebox adorned with foam middle fingers rests in front of a wall dedicated to music memorabilia from all local musicians and bands, old and new. Vintage barber chairs reupholstered in energetic animal print and various flea market/thrift store furniture pieces make up the salon space. “Your space should reflect who you are and what you love,” Jonny said as we walked around the not-too-big and not-too-small of a space. A David Bowie poster, antique dressers, and confessional doors with mirrors—not the usual items found in an everyday salon—begged to have their stories told. We only had an hour to spend there, and I wish we had a week (yes, we are planning on going back in the near future).
Now you would think that due to the décor of the establishment, HiFi is attracting a certain “type” of client. Maybe music aficionados who like having a little Bauhaus blaring in the background or millennials wanting pastel hair and their beards oiled up, but that is so not the case here. Jonny’s clientele runs the gamut of diversity. Yes, he does have local musicians, folks who like to swap vinyl, young ladies looking for some statement hair coming in for service, but he has also fathers bringing in their sons, professional, corporate women getting foils and even a client named Lois who is 80 years young who loves the vibe of space and the end result of her paid-for service. “Now, I will say this, and I tell it to everyone so they know what they are getting into when they first start coming here, ‘If you don’t hear the word ‘fuck’ while you’re getting your service, it’s free.’”
I opened up HiFi back in 2011 and it was what I was supposed to do this whole time. I’m not going to do anything I don’t enjoy. I did that for years, for far too long, and I finally said enough. Now I’m doing what I was meant to do all along. I’ve been doing hair for almost 30 years and doing hair and selling music and being an irreverent dick is what I want to do.
Jonny is a true example of controlling and creating your own destiny. He proves that yes, you can have it all. But you and I (and Jonny) all know, it’s not easy to get it. He spent YEARS working for others and having to abide by their rules, their branding and their mission. He did what he had to do until the time was right for him to take the passionate leap of faith. It’s like what salon owner Brian Graham did when he got out of the army and HR, and what Anna Hillengras, owner of The Foundry Home Goods did when she left her prestigious job in NYC. They found a way to take what they were passionate about and turn it into a profitable passion.
Maybe the reason I’ve had a hard time writing this is because I’m not only impressed with Jonny as business owner, but as a person. He has stayed true to himself and fused his passion for music and his hairdressing talents together into a lucrative enterprise. He created synergy for everything he loves doing and being a part of, and it’s been extremely successful. That is not easy to accomplish, especially when you’re running two completely different businesses at the same time. Maybe it’s because I’m finally settling into a place in my own personal life where I’m able to bring together everything that I want to do and enjoy doing and make it work. It could be that the reason I’ve struggled writing this piece on Jonny is because I’m nervously excited to see that it can and will happen for those people who have the passion and the will to make it come to fruition.