Patrice Vinci grew up around the hustle and bustle of a hair salon: customers coming in and out, banter between the stylist and the client, and women siting under chair dryers—she knew she wanted to be a part of it. Years later, she now owns Patrice Vinci Salon on Newbury Street, which celebrated ten years in 2018. She pulled up a chair in the salon to tell the Sun all about how she got this far.
An Everett native, Vinci was raised by her grandmother who took her down to her aunt Rosemarie’s hair salon on Elm Street in Everett. She said her aunt (who is now in her 70s) was one of the first female business owners in Everett. “It was a happy place for me,” she said, thinking back fondly on all of the time she would hang out at Rosemarie’s salon. “My aunt was beautiful; she was always dressed up. I loved all the clients coming in and I just used to sit there and watch her do the hairdos,” she said.
So right after she finished high school, Vinci attended Beauty Creators Academy. It was 1987, and her grandmother signed her up and went with her on the first day. Her grandmother introduced her to the director and told her that if Vinci misses one day of school or is ever late to give her a direct phone call. She wanted to hear right from the director if her granddaughter wasn’t there.
Vinci never missed a day of school, nor was she ever late. She said she’d like to thank her grandmother for the kind of structure and routine she introduced into her life, because it would become vital throughout the rest of her career. “I think when you own a business, that’s kind of a platform for your business: stability, consistency, routine,” Vinci said.
But long before she would own her own salon, she dreamed of working on Newbury Street “Growing up in Everett, that was almost like going to Mars,” she said. “I mean, that was very far away from my reality.” In the 1980s and 1990s was when a lot of salons started to boom on Newbury Street, and it was even more exclusive than it is now.
“If you worked on Newbury Street, especially then, you were the top of your game, there was a lot of training; there were a lot of people who came to Newbury Street who did not last,” Vinci said.
She also dreamed of working in the entertainment business, so she envisioned herself starting out on Newbury Street and then moving to Beverly Hills. But Newbury Street was still in the distance for Vinci. After beauty school, she she worked at Panache Hair Design in Wakefield. Owned by her aunt’s daughter Michelle, the salon was Vinci’s first foray into the world of actually working in a hair salon. Though she didn’t get to do much other than cleaning and shampooing, it was a far cry from her days as a little girl just taking it all in. She was starting to gain some real experience interacting with people and getting a feel for what it was really like to work in a salon.
After Panache, Vinci finally made it to Newbury Street working for John Dellaria, one of the biggest names on Newbury Street in the early 1990s. She started as a shampoo assistant and got a ticket on her car every single day. “But that did not stop me,” she said. “ I started out sweeping floors on Newbury Street I started as an assistant and I worked my way up,” she said. After Dellaria’s salon closed, she worked for a while at Ecocentrics, a salon across the street.
Vinci realized she wasn’t fulfilling her dream to work in the entertainment business, so she started doing freelance work in New York and Lost Angeles, coloring and styling the hair of movie and TV stars. She still does a lot of movie work in Boston as well, especially color for a lot of the movies that come through the city. She also does press junkets for NBC. Vinci thought she might want to stay in LA after learning so much from so many renowned stylists, but she ultimately decided to fulfill the dream of owning her own business. She thought there was no better place to do it than where she grew up.
So in 2008, Patrice Vinci salon opened on Newbury Street In a fourth floor space at 91 Newbury St., Vinci took a risk. She opened the salon with all of her own money and the help of a few friends. 2008 was not a good year for the economy, and people were afraid to change jobs and go to a new business. “I was one of the only women on lower Newbury Street,” Vinci said. “I was an underdog. In the first five years, it was hard to get things off the ground and get the kinks out of a new business.”
Vinci named the salon after herself because she thought it was a good name—Patrice is a unisex name in France, and Vinci is Italian. “I figured that for customers that did not know me or come to me,…they wouldn’t know if I was a male or female or French or Italian or both,” she said.
Vinci had also taken up standup comedy along the way, and performed all over Boston for five years. When she was doing hair behind the scenes in a movie, she would have people in the industry tell her she’s funny, and was even Boston’s Funniest Woman at one point. But once she opened up the salon, she had to make a decision about what was more important to her. She loved comedy and she loved doing hair, but she couldn’t put forth her best effort for both at the same time. She said if she had chosen comedy, she would have done it to transition to auditioning for film or TV, but she felt like she didn’t start young enough—so she chose hair.
Even though she chose hair over comedy, that does not stop Vinci from being lighthearted in her salon, joking with her customers and sharing her easygoing personality.
“I think [my personality is] unique for a hairdresser and hair salon owner on Newbury St, especially down in this area,” she said. “I try to find the humor in things instead of getting upset.”
Today, Vinvi has a staff of about 25 to 30 people, some former salon owners, and some up and coming young stylists. It’s a mix of ages and of talents, something Vinci said she’s very proud of.
Though she’s celebrating ten years of success this year, it wasn’t always easy for Vinci. With no formal college or business education, she relied on the knowledge and advice of family members and friends who were business owners. “I was lucky to have a lot of smart people around me and I’m grateful that I was smart enough to listen to them,” she said.
“The business has grown and it kind of shape shifts and every year it’s different,” she added. “I think for us, every year it’s gotten better.” She said that as a young business owner, the first few years were the ones she learned the most from.
“I feel very fortunate that when I opened, I had a lot of interest from some of the most popular hair dressers on the street,” she said. Frank Xavier, one of the most famous hair dressers in Boston, now works at Patrice Vinci salon. She also employs Dean Mellen, a 40 year veteran in the industry who splits his time between Boston, New York, Malibu, San Francisco, and Miami.
As for the younger stylists, “I have three young people coming up right now that I am really excited about,” she said. She said she goes to beauty schools to find people she thinks are interesting and talented, and mentors them and turns them into “the young stars of Newbury Street,” she said. “I’m really happy to have a part in making that happen for them.”
Vinci said the most rewarding part of her career has been watching herself and other people grow. “Being able to have a place where a lot of my friends work and building a lot of relationships with the clientele that comes in has been extremely rewarding for me,” she said. “I really started out from the bottom.”
She said one of the most challenging aspects of owning a salon is getting a whole bunch of different creative personalities to work together under one roof, but she feels like she’s succeeded. Her advice for young business owners is to be hands on with their business. She said it’s not easy to own a business, as it comes with a lot of responsibility, rules, and laws that must be followed. “My business works best when I’m here,” she said. “I’m in the trenches with my people every day.”
Though she’s become very successful, Vinci hasn’t forgotten her roots: “I’ve had this place for ten years, and still if we’re short handed, I’m folding towels, I’m sweeping floors, I work next to these young people every day,” she said. These principles harken back to the days of her grandmother taking her to Beauty Creators Academy—consistency is key.
“I hope to be some kind of role model or some kind of positive influence for younger people,” she said, “and to show people that you can do what you want to do if you work really hard and believe that you can do it.”