The Northside’s New Do: HABA Salon Opens

Not everyone has a penchant for style. Specifically, I address those college students whose need for comfort is so great that they graze through the day in sweatpants, hair in a bun or tucked under a frayed cap and wearing old boots caked in a winter’s worth of salt and mud.

But then there is the rest of the population, who take part in grooming, and they will be excited to hear that HABA Salon opened in February at 212 E. Market St. in Iowa City, and they are having their grand opening party this Friday, April 16 at 6 p.m.

Owners Nichole Schappert and Leah Ostby, as well as salon director and former uber-party planner, Molly Freeman, have brought a unique salon to the Northside neighborhood. Located in the former Dairy Queen, they have transformed the large space into an inviting room with custom cedar and pine woodwork by Dusty Overman, a minibar, a lounge and plans for local artist showcases. The salon’s grand opening will also be the kickoff for a show of paintings by local artist (and Little Village contributor) Tonya Kehoe.

“We’re not really competing with anyone,” said Schappert. “We have such a different vibe here. It’s not too modern, we have tons of natural lighting. We want it to be a natural, warm experience.”

HABA provides services for both men and women. Schappert described her stylists as classically trained with a preference for natural, earthy colors and fun, textured cuts. They also offer highlighting, balayage (a French hand-painted highlighting technique), American wave and razor cutting, as well as other services.

And, while the salon often isn’t the natural habitat for men, HABA seeks to change this: They have two stylists who focus specifically on cutting and styling men’s hair.

“Some women like more of a tailored look [on men], and we like a guy who likes getting their hair done and doesn’t mind 45 minutes in a chair once a month … I think men need to relax at the salon. How are they going to attract a mate if they don’t look good?” said Schappert, laughing. “Women look at men’s haircuts, for sure.”

HABA’s hair care line focuses on boutique brands with modest prices, said Schappert. They are also ambassadors for New York City-based stylist guru Nick Arrojo (many may remember him from TLC’s What Not to Wear) and are the only salon in Iowa to carry his hair care product line, Arrojo. HABA recently sent a stylist to Arrojo’s studio in New York for a “Salon Bootcamp” which sounds a little strange but includes 40 hours of classes in a week where the stylist will learn how to style, cut and color men and women’s hair.

Schappert became interested in styling men and women’s hair at a very early age.

“It started when my mom began to cut my hair at home, sitting on the living room floor,” she explained. “I loved the process of getting cuts, even at the age of nine, it was really relaxing.”

Schappert continued on a collection of mannequin heads and dolls, which she worried was a little creepy. But her interest, or obsession, led her to graduate high school early and enter cosmetology school at the age of 17.

Collectively, Schappert and Ostby have more than 16 years of experience working at Buzz Salon. And both have worked at other salons since then.

HABA, which takes appointments and walk-ins, had interest from clientele even before they opened in February, and the spring has been good for their business.

“People wait for spring to get new cuts,” said Schappert. “I think it’s a spring cleaning, a whole fresh look. Everyone likes seasonal transitions.”

As they finish renovating, hanging artwork and completing their product line, Schappert is happy with the new salon’s location.

“The Northside has been so welcoming to us. I feel like we’re the baby of the neighborhood and they’re rooting for us,” said Schappert. “It doesn’t really feel like a new spot, it feels like home.”

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