An emporium of style reaches a milestone
11/14/2017 02:44PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
It is still three weeks from Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday social season, but there is not a quiet and unoccupied spot anywhere at the Nicholas Anthony Salon & Day Spa in Kennett Square.
And no one here – the woman needing an updo for a wedding, the teenager receiving a makeup application, the man here for a Swedish massage, or any one of the staff – is really all that surprised.
In fact, the typical uptick in business that kicks salons into overdrive at this time of the year has become business as usual throughout the year here – a general acceptance that has made Nicholas Anthony a top-spot destination for thousands of clients.
It's been this way since June 1997, when founder, owner and stylist Anthony DiFrancesco moved his talents to the new Willowdale Shopping Center to open a new salon. After eight years of co-owning a salon on Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington, DiFrancesco arrived in Kennett Square with a resume already top-heavy with accolades and apprenticeships with some of the top stylists in the region and the world.
In many ways, what has happened at Nicholas Anthony Salon & Day Spa – the talented staff, the many services, the fashion shoots, the awards and the recognition in the fashion industry – is the result of hard work and a vision that began years ago.
As a teenager, DiFrancesco learned the essentials of styling from his mentor Douglas David, who co-founded the prestigious Schilling-Douglas School of Hair Design with James Schilling. On a trip to attend the hair styling show in Las Vegas when he was 19 years old, DiFrancesco introduced himself to legendary stylist Sam Cappelle, who had coached several International Hair Olympics teams.
“I told my girlfriend at the time – later my wife – that I wanted to work with this guy,” DiFrancesco said. “I drove to Sam's studio in Margate, N.J., walked into Sam's salon and applied for a job. I told him that I would sweep his floors just for the chance to watch him cut hair. I later joined Sam preparing hair for Olympic competitions. So there I was, around stylists who were paying top dollar for the chance to be around Sam, while I was learning under him for free.
“Sam not only had the ability to cut any type of hair, he could talk with any person, and he was so creative. I absorbed everything he was doing and how he did it."
DiFrancesco then continued his training as a stylist with Michael Hemphill of Michael Christoper Designs in Wilmington, which has served as a launching pad for some of the leading hair stylists in Delaware and beyond. While working with Hemphill, DiFrancesco won prestigious awards for hairdressing in 1986 and 1988.
“Both Sam and Michael demonstrated their passion for this business in front of me,” he said. “I would not have been able to be in the position I am in now, were not for what I learned from them.”
DiFrancesco also credits Cappelle's business partner Robert Navone for being his first mentor on the business side of the industry, who showed him the ropes of honesty and integrity.
When DiFrancesco began preparing for the opening of his Kennett Square salon in 1997, he had about six weeks to do so.
“When you open a salon, it's crazy, because everything comes together at the last minute,” he said. “We started this from a blank shell with a total of eight employees on staff, and on the day we opened, the stations were still being hooked up and everything was getting tied together. We were all beginning to cut hair, and there were still contractors walking around the studio, putting the last touches on.”
Today, Nicholas Anthony Salon & Day Spa has 34 employees, including front desk scheduling agents, and licensed massage therapists, hair stylists and estheticians, and offers a complete menu of haircuts in all styles; coloring, nails, waxing and makeup services; and a full line of facial and massage treatments.
One of those employees is DiFrancesco's son Dario, who has joined the operations staff after earning a business degree from the University of Delaware.
“I was about four years old when this location opened,” Dario said. “I began part-time here when I was a kid, and my dad would bring me in on busy days to do laundry, sweep and grab food for the staff. My father has taught me that in this business, everything begins and ends with the client, and over the years, our clients have become like an extended family to me,” he added. “When someone walks through your doors, you want them to have the best service possible, and I want to be that friendly face who checks on them and asks about their family. My father teaches everyone here that this is all about providing our clients with the best experience possible.”
Posted recently on the Nicholas Anthony Salon & Day Spa Facebook page was a sign that read, “The best hairdressers never stop learning.” Indeed, continuing education is paramount to DiFrancesco and his staff, and through the salon's designation as an elite Redken salon, it allows the staff access to a continuing flow of courses, lectures and demonstrations throughout the year.
"We recently met with Redken to set up the first two quarters of next year's education," DiFrancesco said. "The key to our success is to keep filtering in a new group of people, meld them with our anchor staff, and keep educating them. We allow new staff the opportunity to flourish, which creates a feeling in them that says that they are a part of that success."
Between phone calls, DiFrancesco takes a look at the main floor of the salon he has owned here for the past 20 years, and the constancy of appointments shows no sign of letting up. He said that even after two decades in Kennett Square, the business never leaves him. He has earned a reputation as one of the leading hair stylists in the Delaware Valley, but on any given day, he is often found fixing toilets, painting walls, and repairing the wiring around his salon.
"The key to me is that I never want to arrive, because once I arrive somewhere, it's time to go away," he said. "If we keep striving and keep trying to get better, then I think you keep moving in the right direction.
"We couldn't do anything we do out here without our full team," he added. "Our success is based around the people who have helped us get there. I learn from every person in here, and I don't want to stop learning."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org .