Aire Salon personifies, in a small way, what Jersey City aspires to be.
Over the past decade, the city’s once blue collar downtown has been steadily becoming a bedroom community with its residents staring across the Hudson at Manhattan.
Young entrepreneurs, often in their 20s and most without MBAs, are building restaurants and other small businesses laser focused on the city’s newest inhabitants: commuting stock brokers, bankers and office workers. Lower costs and the promise of up-and-coming neighborhoods has drawn them to the area.
Here, the salon fits.
Its co-owners — Aiko Kahn, 26, and Racheal Durski, 32, — knew they wanted to be in Jersey City before they imagined their shop’s blue exterior facade, sheer curtains and the cursive now painted across the salon’s windows.
The place sits within blocks away of the Grove Street PATH station at 287 Grand Street. Kahn and Durski live around the corner.
The pair searched for more than a year before finding the perfect space and quitting their jobs; both were working for high-end salons, Kahn in Tribeca for the global art director of Redken and Durski for the art director of Paul Mitchell in Hoboken.
The two women gathered cash from family and friends — unable to obtain a federally backed small business loan from the bank, Durski says. Some of their investors pitched in by helping paint the shop.
Aire opened in September.
Today, the parlor sits a short distance from the city’s most affluent neighborhood, Paulus Hook, where two-bedroom apartments can easily rent for New York City prices — roughly $3,000 and up.
Both women have placed pieces of themselves into the parlor.
For instance, the shop’s styling chairs are vintage Takara Belmont that Durski found by chance on Craigslist — originally covered in rust and old hairspray. The vinyl was worn through, and the previous owners covered the holes with black spray paint. Kahn says she spent three weekends in a row sitting on a half-deflated basketball scrubbing the rust off with a metal toothbrush.
Durski, who was recently certified to teach continuing education classes for hair stylists, likes to say the place takes on the same appeal and comfort as homemade mac-and-cheese, the kind made out of high-end truffle oil and fine gouda.
But it’s the community more than location, Kahn says, that drew them to the Hudson County seat.
“People care about the neighborhood and get involved,” she says. “It’s still really different than even Brooklyn, because I feel like Brooklyn isn’t even that neighborly. It still has the separation, the emotional detachment that [New York City] does.”
Still, the most attractive aspect of the salon is its charity.
In the shop’s short lifetime, it already has hosted a benefit for the suicide prevention website IMAlive.org, a program of the Kristin Brooks Hope Center. Kahn sits on the center’s board of directors.
“The most important thing to me isn’t so much the prevention of suicide,” Kahn says. “I really want to make a difference in having people able to have resources to get help.”