A behind-the-scenes look at the small companies that make business possible at a busy salon training-ground in Milwaukee.
Vicí Beauty School, Milwaukee | 11.09.11, 3:59 p.m.
Vicí Beauty School students give discounted haircuts to some 1,500 clients each week using Zip and Golden Crane shears, made by Sensei Shear Systems, a Pittsburg, California, manufacturer of professional scissors that cost as much as $700 a pair. Founded in 1985 by brothers Mark and John Wright, Sensei specializes in ergonomic shears that reduce stress on the user's neck and shoulders. The $4 million company, run by president Mark Wright, has 11 employees and sells products through 100 salon distributors worldwide. It also provides mail-order scissor-sharpening services and recently began selling dog-grooming shears.
The beauty business can be messy. To protect their clothes from dyes and makeup, Vicí's 114 stylists-in-training wear water-repellent, stain-resistant polyester smocks made by Smockers by Bexar Manufacturing of San Antonio. Founded in 1994 by president Veronica DeNeve, the company started out making smocks for cosmetics employees at Dillard's department stores. Today, Smockers has 15 employees and sells smocks and uniforms, in eight colors and 18 styles, to hair and beauty clients in the U.S. and Canada, including Merle Norman Cosmetics.
Last year, Vicí students used about 750 16-ounce bottles of Barbicide Plus to sanitize their shears, clippers, and work stations. The electric-blue liquid, made by King Research in Milwaukee, contains a tuberculocidal agent and quaternary ammonium, a chemical that prevents inflammation of the hair follicles and kills some strains of staph bacteria. Maurice King, a high school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, created Barbicide in 1947. His son, Ben, sold the business to a group of Milwaukee investors in 2007. Today, King is headed by Alan Murphy and sells its products, including Barbicide wipes and spray, through hundreds of salon distributors worldwide.
When owners Penny and Marvin Rushing opened this 22,000-square-foot beauty school, in 2004, they tapped Veeco Manufacturing of Chicago to design, engineer, and fabricate the space. Veeco also supplied the school's 114 salon chairs and stainless-steel stations, 24 shampoo bowls, and reception-area furniture. Founded in 1945 by Harvey Cohen, Veeco is a reincarnation of C&W, a manufacturer of overhead and hand-held hair dryers that Harvey's father, Solomon Cohen, founded in 1927. Now run by Harvey's son, Leonard S. Cohen, Veeco has 30 employees and completes about 50 major projects for salons and beauty schools nationwide each year.
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