Salon Rouge’s Salim: From Casablanca to 17th Street

by May 5, 2010 at 5:00 am 4,368 0

Salon Rouge 17th Street NW Salim dc salons Luis Gomez Photos

Salim Elalami in front of Salon Rouge, 1636 17th Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

For Borderstan‘s ongoing series on local entrepreneurs and retail businesses, we sat down with Salim Elalami, owner of Salon Rouge and former partner in the Subairi salon on R Street.

Elalami came to the United States from Casablanca, Morocco, as a teenager and attended the University of Maryland on a soccer scholarship. Unable to meet the additional costs of college life, Elalami went to work, starting as a busboy in Georgetown, working his way up to a bartender and eventually becoming part of restaurant management.

Next, Elalami enrolled in hair styling classes at a local academy, with the encouragement of a hairdresser friend. According to Elalami, he knew itt would be better hours than the long nights of bartending, which kept him working until 4 am.

After attending hair styling classes, he eventually worked for a salon on Connecticut Avenue and later opened Subairi with a business parnter in 2000. Almost a decade later, he opened Salon Rouge at 1636 17th Street NW.

Borderstan: What other jobs did you have before becoming a hair stylist?
Elalami: Not only did I work as a busboy and bartender in Georgetown, but I also taught tennis lessons while I was living in San Diego.

Borderstan: What is the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
Elalami: Actually owning and running my own salon has been the most unusual job I’ve ever had. It’s not for everyone. There are a lot of different types of employees with different specialties who work in a hair salon so you have to deal with people with different backgrounds and attitudes, and adjust accordingly.

Borderstan: What is the best part about owning your own business?
Elalami: I think the best part is that the hope is always there. You have the ability to work hard, make your own money and hopefully retire early. Small businesses usually last between three and five years. Hair salons are even less. Within a year, you either make it or break it so it’s nice to know that I have already beaten the odds.

Borderstan: What is most difficult about owning your own business?
Elalami: You have to work three times as hard as other people. You need to get in an hour earlier than everyone else and also stay later than the rest. It’s a challenge, but it’s enjoyable.

Borderstan: How has your business been affected by the recession?
Elalami: The salon business used to be a recession proof profession, but that is no longer the case. Every week is so different now. Business has not been consistent since the middle of 2008, ever since the housing crisis.


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