Pictured above Dad with John Harris (left) his longest serving client from Strathfield 1965 and Lance Harkus (right) one of dads first clients in Parramatta 1968
I have a story to share about a young migrant who came to Australia in 1960 from his home country of Lebanon. I have heard this story countless times in my life and as much as I have heard it before and rolled my eyes when my father starts again, it truly is a story I am very proud of. Read on to see how Hair by Phd started and how it has grown to be a family business that really has contributed to this great country of ours.
I’m sure there are many success stories like this out there; unfortunately, I don’t think they get told enough, we tend to only focus on the bad ones.
Peter was a 20-year-old young man in 1960 when he chose to come to Australia for a better life. His knowledge of the English language was not great; he borrowed the money to make the 3-week journey by sea. He chose Australia because his older brother had met an Australian soldier in Lebanon who had brought him to this beautiful country. Peter came from a family of eleven children, they were poor and life was tough. He was lucky enough to have an uncle who trained him to be a barber. Back in those days, you would have to pay someone to teach you the trade until you could start earning money for the business. His uncle did this for free.
So Peter packed his bags and embarked on a three-week boat journey to join his brother in the land of opportunity. All he had was his bag, scissors, comb and a debt for his ticket over here.
Not long after landing, Peter got a job working as a barber in Sydney’s CBD. He applied his trade and learnt to speak the language. He did this for around five years and through hard work and endless hours travelling around to friend’s places to cut their hair and play cards on the weekends, he paid his debt and saved enough money to open a small barbershop in Strathfield. It was now 1965 and this is where Peter’s Salon started.
In 1968 he was forced to close Strathfield because the lease was up and on the 2 September 1968 he opened a salon in Phillip St, Parramatta. He had to borrow money from the bank for this one and as a token of his appreciation to the bank manager who lent him the money, he was the first client in Phillip St, and yes it was a freebie! (Building customer relations from day one). 1968 was a massive year for Peter, he got married to Georgette in January and they were expecting their first born in November.
The salon soon grew to three team members and in 1970 Peter employed his first apprentice, Greg Bartley. 1970 was a special year for my parents, I was born and they haven’t looked back since LOL! Greg was with Peter for many years and has since gone on to be a very successful salon owner in his own right. He and I have become great friends and share a lot in common, including drinking too much red wine.
The early 70’s became very tough for the barbering business, as fashions changed, inspired mainly by The Beatles. Men started growing their hair longer and getting their hair cut less often and this really hurt business for Peter. Trying to work out what to do next before he went broke was tough, so he decided to employ a ladies hairdresser. This made Peter’s Salon, Peter’s Unisex Salon – one of the first unisex salons in Parramatta.
By the late 70’s, early 80’s, Peter had 3 salons – Parramatta, Bankstown and Wentworthville. Peter had created all this from hard work, the help of great people and an awesome wife. Georgette, although not actually working in the salons, was at home bringing up four children on her own, as well as being a major support for Peter.
I joined the team fulltime in 1985 and in 1986 we doubled the size of the Parramatta salon and business was booming. Peter’s Unisex Salons changed its name to Peter’s Hair Designer’s and the new era started. My first venture into salon ownership was in 1990 when Peter and I opened Peter’s Hair Designer’s in Hurstville. I ran that for seven years and 1997 I decided it was time to spread my wings, closed the salon and went overseas for a few months.
Upon my return in 1998, Louise my sister had started her apprenticeship and was making a mark in the industry. A truly talented hairdresser, the salon grew to new heights. In the early 2000’s we refitted the Parramatta salon and changed the name to what it’s known as today – Hair by Phd.
Currently, we have 3 salons – Parramatta, who I partner with my sister Louise, Carlingford and Camden, who I partner with Bec and Lemai respectively. Both Bec and Lemai worked at our Parramatta salon for many years. I am taking the approach of growing Hair by Phd with our people and so far this approach is working well.
People are what our business is all about, the love for the industry, our team and our clients. This is a lesson I learned early on from Peter – he would refer to his clients as friends and his team like family. He has trained hundreds of stylists through the apprenticeship program and many of them have gone on to be great hairdressers and salon owners.
He has left a lasting legacy and contributed to this country by employing people and teaching them life skills, making people look great and making them feel good about themselves, and of course, lending a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen to through good times and bad.
There have been many ups and many downs along the way but to achieve 50 years in the one industry is an enormous feat. I have learnt a lot from my father and we all continue to be inspired by what he has achieved.
We will not stop here, I look forward together with a new generation of great stylists to keep contributing to our communities and making sure dad’s legacy lives on.