In 2005, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was the highest grossing movie and American Idol and Desperate Housewives topped our television must-watch lists.  A gallon of gas cost $2.23 and Asbury Park’s beach badge revenue was $30,000.

It was the year of “Gotti-style” haircuts for men and flat-straight hair for women.  As well, Gloss Salon opened its doors on Lake Avenue in Asbury Park.

“I was driving one day and felt in my gut it was the time to open my own salon,” said John Partusch, owner, Gloss Salon.  “Growing up in Neptune and with a strong family connection to Asbury Park, I knew it was where I wanted to be.  When I saw this big cool space overlooking the lake, everything came together.”

Like many 29 year olds, he was single with few responsibilities and big dreams.  He had that “now or never” energy and the passion and talent to act on it.

“I didn’t know a lot, but I didn’t realize how much I really, really didn’t know until I got deep into making the salon a reality,” said Partusch.  “Then I started learning as I went along.”

Gloss Salon celebrates its 10th anniversary this month.

Gloss Salon celebrates its 10th anniversary this month.

Like most small business owners, he became immersed in researching everything and anything about opening and managing a salon.  Every day, he made more and more critical decisions like identifying the optimal layout of the salon and how to spend each borrowed dollar wisely.  As well, he spent hours looking for the right team of talents to support and round-out his vision.

“When I met John and learned about his experience (working for Schwartzkoff), I figured if all else failed, I would learn a lot from him,” said Lynda Schweizer, senior stylist, who’s been with Gloss since Day One.  “I was working at a basic salon in Staten Island and wanted more; I knew I could do more.  After he gave me a great ‘test’ haircut, I was hooked.  I picked up and moved to the shore with no clients and a lot of faith.”

Ever perceptive and intuitive, Schweizer could see Asbury Park was turning the corner of its renaissance.  As well, her future partner in style was serious about making the salon a success. Partusch invested more than $100,000 to open the salon.

“I got a loan for $50,000 and thought that probably would cover everything,” said Partusch.  “That money went out the window after I wrote checks to three contractors.  So I took out another loan and maxed out every credit card.  The financial debt didn’t scare me because I believed in myself and the city.”

The first three years are a blur to Partusch and Schweizer.  Every day the duo welcomed new faces and lived the revival of the city.  As they worked together to build a full “book” of clients and expand the salon’s list of services, they strategized with the other Asbury Park businesses to create a destination and new identity for downtown.

“It was an extended-family feeling back then,” said Partusch.  “A win for one business owner was a win for all of us.  It’s just Taka and I that opened in 2005 and are still here.”

Today, more than 55,000 cuts later, and a team that’s expanded to include Crissy Ciaglia, they’ve weathered the recession and hit a stride.  Together, they’ve grown up with the city and their clients.  Each have styled a client’s prom hair, wedding hair and a toddler’s first cut.

“We share in the milestones and moments with our clients,” said Schweizer.  “Looking back, coming to Gloss was the best decision I ever made.”

Yep, since she came to town, Schweizer has gotten married (to the great guy who introduced her to Partusch), had two amazing boys, bought a house and created a life for herself as beautiful as her haircuts.

[Disclosure – since I moved here, Schweizer and Ciaglia have been the only two who have touched my vain head.]

Partusch is not one for reflection.  He is grateful Gloss has become a top area salon but doesn’t personally recognize his accomplishment or victory of entrepreneurship, comparing himself to salon owners that have been in business 15 years longer.  In Partusch’s mind, there is much more work to be done.  With the cushion of success to fall back on he wants to expand in new ways, into new markets while maintaining the quality that’s helped him mark this anniversary.  I hear news of a major change is coming.

After much prodding, Partusch shared his thoughts for future local entrepreneurs.

“Looking back, now, the 39 year old John says educate yourself as much as you can about your industry and where it’s going before opening so there are less surprises,” said Partusch.  “Most of all, follow your instincts.  Everyone will have an opinion – most of it negative – about your idea.  After you do your research, listen to yourself and make the final decision based on what you feel rather than the collective opinion.  That’s what the 29 year old John did.”

And the future looks, err… scissor sharp.