Novak Hair Studios
250 W. Lancaster Ave., No. 110
Novak Hair Studios opens in Fort Worth
Merriam-Webster defines luxury as a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort.
Fort Worth’s newest downtown salon, Novak Hair Studios, works hard to live up to that definition.
The salon opened April 2 at 250 W. Lancaster Ave., No. 110.
When designing Novak, owner Benjamin Novak Hudgins left no detail behind — from the air and lights, to the sounds and smells — in what he has called a luxury solo-artist salon.
“One of the things that we’ve found … is people aren’t really being taken care of anymore, especially in the lease-style salons. I think that’s happening in general; you’re seeing this trend of businesses forgetting to take care of the customer,” Hudgins said.
“That’s our entire concept. We are a luxury solo artist salon … because we’re trying to rebrand … what lease-style salons have been,” he continued. “Essentially, what we are is a traditional lease-style salon that’s dedicated to creating the customer service experience.”
Opening Novak’s doors, instead of encountering the typical barrage of hair-product smells, customers are enveloped by a cucumber and aloe custom fragrance. A customized playlist sounds throughout the space, changing throughout the day to ebb and flow with the energy of the salon.
A centralized circular check-in area serves as what Hudgins has termed the studio’s “gathering hall.” Hallways branch off from the center, leading to the 41 enclosed stylist suites, 10 open-concept workstations, two private studio spaces and a shampoo wash area. A staircase leads to the processing area that doubles as an in-salon education space.
The walls are adorned with over 50 of Hudgins’ hand-painted art pieces.
A concierge circulates throughout the salon, offering clients drinks — beer on tap, wine, sodas, hot tea, coffee and water — and helping them book appointments. Dimmed lighting promotes a luxury lounge, resort-style feel.
“I’m a details person. I think that is the difference between a good experience and an amazing experience,” Hudgins said. “Everything is designed to help take you away from all the pressures that you go through on a daily basis.”
The shampoo area features light therapy and European style shampoo bowls. Once the stylists finish their work, customers are taken to the upstairs processing area.
“Having an area that you can go away to and be out of the way and be on your own, I think is incredible,” Hudgins said. “We’ve got charging stations all the way down to allow you to maybe be able to get a little bit of work done or just relax with a glass of wine.”
For its in-salon products, Novak has partnered with Eufora International, an eco-friendly beauty product manufacturer.
In Eufora products, Hudgins explained, the first ingredient is aloe rather than water or other chemicals. In homage, aloe is placed throughout the salon. The plant also purifies the air of ammonia, formaldehydes and other harmful ingredients typically found in beauty products.
Stylists can buy the Eufora products or they can purchase their own products if they choose.
In a traditional lease-style salon setting, stylists are expected to buy and manage their own inventory and pay state taxes, but Novak is trying to take that burden off their shoulders. And, Hudgins said, because Novak isn’t looking to make money off Eufora sales but simply build brand confidence, he is able to double the industry standard and pay stylists 20 percent commissions.
“Another major reason that we teamed up with Eufora is because they are … going to bring in some of the top national educators in the world here to Fort Worth in Novak Hair Studios,” Hudgins said. “So we will have in-salon education every single quarter provided by Novak Hair Studios with the assistance of Eufora.”
One of Novak’s missions, Hudgins said, is to help stylists advance their career by offering a sense of sustainability for the stylist’s career and work-life balance.
“For us sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s just sustainability of the environment. Obviously, that’s a huge part of it, but … we think that part of being able to create a healthy world and a healthy planet is also having healthy, balanced people.”
With over 16 years of experience and his time working in lease-style salons, Hudgins knows first-hand the burnout from overwork. He said the customer service area is meant to ease the burden on stylists by taking the job of appointment bookings and checkouts off their shoulders, though they are not required to use the service.
Novak it also about giving stylists a place to grow, feel at home and showcase their work. In-salon education space helps stylists continue their education, and suites they can personalize give them somewhere to call their own.
Novak also has an in-salon photography studio with start-of-the-art lighting. Stylists can bring clients to the space for before and after photos or unique styles to share on social media.
The 10,000-square-foot salon can accommodate 70 stylists, though at the grand opening Hudgins expects it will only be a third occupied.
The suites vary in size. Rentable, furnished open-concept areas allow for more camaraderie among stylists, and in larger suites stylists can contract together to share the space.
Stylists’ names are etched into the rolling doors of their suites, Hudgins said, because Novak wants them “to feel like they are a permanent part of the fixture.”
F For Novak, it’s not about being the stylists’ “boss” but instead being a partner in their success.
“What we’re doing is we partner with them to ensure that they have the tools that they need to be the most successful version of themselves,” he said.
Hudgins says he understands that Novak’s model won’t be for everyone, or even a permanent place for their stylists, as people need different things at different points in their career.
“What we want to do is we want to make sure that whenever our stylists walk away from Novak Studios, they are stronger and better, and the industry is better, and the planet is better,” he said. “We want that to happen with every single solo artist that comes in and out of Novak.”
Hudgins says Novak is Fort Worth’s first zero waste salon, meaning that 85 percent or more of the material leaving the salon is either reusable or recyclable.
In addition to having traditional recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum throughout the salon, Novak packs up cut human hair to be shipped off and packed into booms that are used to soak up oil spills in the ocean.
Instead of sending the chemical-filled hair coloring foils to a landfill, they are melted down and used to create energy. Hudgins said. If a stylist mixes too much color product when dyeing a client’s hair, the extra hair color is drained into the salon’s brown water area that is then sent off and put into a machine that spins the waste and takes out all potable drinkable water, while disposing of the chemicals.
But, Hudgins says, being sustainable and eco-friendly is about more than just the reusable and recyclable element.
“When you’re talking about zero waste, it’s about making sure that you’re also keeping a more sustainable environment within the salon,” Hudgins said. “We have a 100 percent fresh air intake, for example, that actually pulls all the carcinogens out of the air sitting inside the salon and pumps in clean fresh air, but in a much more efficient way than a standard air conditioning system does.”
Even the lighting was designed with conservation in mind. Not only are all light bulbs LED, but every space in the salon has motion detectors so the lights turn off when the area is not in use.
And all of Novak’s water fixtures are designed to save as much water as possible. For example, in the shampoo area, specially designed nozzle heads not only purify the water through carbonation, but they use 80 percent less water than a traditional shampoo bowl. And in the color bowl washing area, where stylists dump their chemical-laden color, the sprayers are designed to use about 80 percent less water as well.
“It’s literally every single detail, all the way down to even the eco-friendly cleaning products that we use,” Hudgins said.
L LASTING LEGACY
Hudgins’ conservationist tendencies have deep roots. The salon’s name, Novak, is his middle name, after his grandfather, Novak Bullard.
Bullard lived his life for the conservation of bees, traveling around the nation teaching people the importance of bees and how to care for them.
“Long before we knew … how harmful it was, he said, ‘If we don’t do something to change that outcome, then we’re going to be in major trouble,’ ” Hudgins said. “Unfortunately, he was very right.”
Toward the back entrance to the salon, a wall plaque tells Bullard’s story and shares the importance of bees.
“Without bees, we as humanity would actually not exist,” Hudgins said. “Novak Hair Studios, in honor of my grandad, Novak Bullard, is donating a percentage of our profits to saving the honey bee to help his legacy live on.”
Hudgins said the money will go to The Honeybee Conservationist, an organization that lets donors adopt a hive that it then places in a local community garden to help provide fruits and vegetables for underprivileged families.
Being able to help not only the bees but also those in need is a very personal mission for Hudgins.
“I feel I’m a prime example of the system working,” he said. “I grew up with very humble roots. I grew up without a lot, and without assistance I wouldn’t be able to stand here today opening this salon.”
LABOR OF LOVE
“The salon itself has been a labor of love for me,” Hudgins said. “It’s been something that I have personally been working on for many many years.”
He came up with the concept for Novak about seven years ago, but he says the plans continued to evolve and change as he continued to learn and grow.
“I won’t lie, it’s been a long road,” he said. “We knew if we wanted to be able to provide a future for ourselves, it was going to take a lot of heavy sacrifice.”
Hudgins and his husband, Justin, were ready to make that sacrifice, and they sold everything they had — their house in Burleson and their possessions. They moved into an RV and paid off every dollar of their debt until they were able to save enough to take to the bank, literally.
Novak was funded through a small-business loan from Pinnacle Bank. Hudgins and Justin first looked at the West Lancaster space in October of 2016 and didn’t break ground until October of 2017.
“At the end of this, my goal is to not revolutionize the industry in Fort Worth. My goal is to revolutionize the industry,” Hudgins said. “I hope to continue to grow this brand to the point where we can take this concept and spread it and provide this type of experience for people across Texas, and then maybe eventually across into multiple states.”
Hudgins studied cosmetology at the Paul Mitchell School in Carrollton, and during his career has participated in New York Fashion Week and Swim Week in Miami, in addition to working the gamut of salons.
“I have been fortunate enough that I have one of those careers where a lot of hairdressers dream and aspire to get to the point that I have been so lucky to be at,” Hudgins said. “What I’m really excited about is being able to share with other hairdressers how I got there, and to provide an environment that is conducive to them being able to experience that same thing.”
Being in the 16th largest city in America, there’s a lot of competition, Hudgins says, but what makes a business unique is the person standing behind it.
“Whatever makes that person so special, I think you’re going to see that naturally come out in the business itself, and I think that you see that all over Novak Hair Studios,” Hudgins said. “The way that we live our life is shown through these walls and even in the walls.”
When the Sheetrock for the building was going up, Hudgins reached out on social media for messages of love, hope and prosperity, which he and Justin, the general contractor for the project, then wrote inside the walls.
“Literally the foundation of this building, this salon, is based on love,” he said.