Published March 21, 2000
Volume 8, Number 3

Blake Evans of A Unique Affect Offers Much More that Cuts and Styling

By Jay Hipps
Network Editor 

Whatever you do, don't call Blake Evans a beautician. 

"We used to be beauticians but not anymore," he says. "You can use 'hair stylist,' or 'hair designer;' 'Hair dresser' is getting kind of 80's but we'll still accept that. I think of beauticians as the old bee-hive bubble heads and we do a little bit more than that."

He's not kidding. Looking at the services he, his wife Linda, and their staff offer at their salon, A Unique Affect, it's hard to come up with a single term to describe what they do. 

Blake Evans"We do a lot of consulting on weddings," he says, giving just one example. "We work together with makeup people; we go see the dress before we do a style so the bride's happy."

That's not the end of their consulting, either.

"We also do a lot of image consulting with some of our corporate people around here -- it goes a little further than just cutting hair. We're very close with our customers and we get into more than just 'How do you want it?' We educate our customers."

The path that drew Evans to starting A Unique Affect could be termed an education as well. He was born in Utah but moved to Clayton when he was six or seven years old. He was enrolled at a nearby junior college when an uncle who was also in the business convinced him to put a year into beauty school. 

"He talked me into going to school so that as I was finishing my college, I could always work," Evans explains. "No matter where I went, I could work." 

He discovered that it was fun and that he was good at it. 

"I won some awards and some contests and did really well in school, so I thought what the heck -- let's try it out." 

He started with a franchise, Kenneth of London, that had 22 salons in the Bay Area. Unlike contemporaries like Vidal Sassoon, Kenneth's business acumen proved inadequate and the chain failed, leading Evans to go back to college in 1989. 

"I decided it was time to get my degree and maybe try something else, use the other half of my brain," he explains. 

He pursued computer network engineering and worked in the field for five years. He had mixed feelings about working in a corporate setting, enjoying the people while disliking the politics, and eventually came to a crossroads.

"It was an unusual chain of events that led to us open a salon rather than me going to another job in the computer industry," he explains. "I just kind of pursued both and let destiny decide what was going to happen. I'm really glad that it came this way, because one thing I can say about this job is that there's never been a day when I have pulled up in front of the salon and not wanted to go in. 

"That happened a few times with the computer business, but that's never happened with this. I've never not liked coming in, and that to me means a lot."

One of the things that drew him back to hair was meeting the woman he eventually married, Linda, who also worked in the industry. They opened A Unique Affect in early 1996. 

"It probably took a year to plan it, put it together, and build it," he explains. "Building it new, we actually got to design it, right down to where we put the plugs and how many drawers there were. Linda actually did most of the design." 

Business was slow the first couple of years, but Evans indicates that was as much his doing as anything else. 

"We're very particular about who we hire: their skill levels, their experience," he explains. "Most of all, it's kind of a small space and we work very closely together as a team. To a degree, there has to be some sort of meld there. But because we've been so particular, it took us a while to actually acquire the staff we have now. They're a great team." 

The day to day operations of A Unique Affect make up only part of Evans' job, however. He's also a regional executive with Graham Webb, a hair care products company for whom he provides a variety of product knowledge seminars at salons throughout Northern California. 

He also works what he calls "hair shows," trade shows for those in the hair industry where manufacturers display their products in search of new retail outlets. 

"My first experience with one was when I was in school and someone asked me to model, and I thought, 'Wow -- a model!' And the guy turned my hair orange, so I never did that again." 

Instead, he's the one coordinating the models. 

"My job is to make the people on stage look good, so we get the models ready so that when they're cut and done and they take the cape off and the audience is there, the lights hit it and it looks fabulous."

Typically, he explains, each show involves two or three days of preparation before the event even begins. "It's four or five days of really intense work. We normally put together anywhere from 30 to 50 models -- it's a lot of hair we turn out."

As for A Unique Affect, there are big plans for the future. 

"There's a space next door to us that's unoccupied and we're doing a little research into the whole day spa concept, with massage and facials and all that," he says. 

Even with all the other activity, however, Evans' first love remains the strongest.

"I enjoy working behind the chair (cutting hair). I enjoy the people, the interaction I have with my customers. That's actually what brought me back to this. I really enjoy taking ideas and concepts and applying it either creatively or towards my business. If I were to put my finger on one thing, though, it's working behind the chair and creating, making new things happen, and actually seeing it work out."

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