Northeast spotlight :: The art of hair

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January 4, 2010 // UPDATED 8:45 am - January 4, 2010
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
You’re not going to find photos of trendy hairdos gracing the walls of the Denny Kemp Salon Spa in Northeast.

Kemp is not a fan.

Instead, the walls of his salon are loaded with art. He’s got murals by Broken Crow artists John Grider and Mike Fitzsimmons — three goats and two massive gorillas. He’s picked up many items for the salon at Architectural Antiques, too, balancing the edgier artwork with many classic pieces.  

Kemp moved the salon to its current location a couple of years ago. In the 1930s, the building was home to a car dealership. It’s on the same block as the U Otter Stop Inn, the popular karaoke hangout. Previously, the salon was on East Hennepin for 10 years.

He recently spoke with the Downtown Journal about his business.

DTJ: What has been your vision for your current space?

Kemp: More than anything, it’s nice to see the change. If I get bored with it, the people that work here will get bored with it and so will the clients. Because I’m putting art in it, it could be anything. I really hate salons that have pictures of hair all around. My first love is art. … That is what I was intending to do — art, not hair.

What have you learned about the salon business over the years?

If I had known better, I would never had done it [he laughs]. I never planned to be a hair stylist or a salon owner, it just progressed. Naturally I learned a lot of things by working with other people — for other people and having people work under me. I never took any business classes or anything. It was completely trial and error. It’s still trial and error.

Any key lessons learned?

I like running a salon like this. I like the flexibility. [The] stylists have so much more of a free range of creativity and flexibility working here. I’ve learned that works for me, and it works for them because they can be creative and interesting — wear what they want to wear and look like they want to look. … I want to see that they can thrive in this environment.

Do you have a range
of clients?

It’s huge a mix of people. [Clients] come from all over the city and outside the city. My clients have always been like that. It’s a funny mix.

Who thrives here,
in terms of stylists?

Someone who has their own sense of style and is independent. It’s hard for me to take on a person who needs to be led by the hand. I still lead them anyway. The one that’s completely lost, I can’t deal with that.

Any interesting trends to be on the look out for?

You look at the trends in the magazine. They’re in the back of your mind. When you work on someone, just a pinch of that pops in. … Take the Victoria Beckham haircut, or whatever. Those kinds of trends are awful because you can’t keep putting that haircut on everybody and make everybody look, or not look, like Victoria Beckham. That was just her little hairdo and every women in town was wearing some version of it. It’s just bad. And so, you know, people see that and say they like and you modify it for them, and make it look good for them, for their facial shape.

Denny Kemp Salon Spa
Where: 605 Central Ave.