Founded in 1974 by Jerry Gordon, one of America’s most respected hair stylists, J. Gordon Designs, located in the heart of Chicago’s trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood, has featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Elle, and on Oprah. After Jerry’s passing in 2015, the good work of J. Gordon Designs continues under the guidance of Jerry’s wife, Karen Gordon. A revered stylist in her own right, Karen is the current Vice President of Cosmetologists Chicago. We caught up with her to learn more about her work, and what being an ARROJO Ambassador means to her business.  
 
Karen, J. Gordon Designs is a Chicago institution. Can you tell us what makes it so special? 
 
We’ve been here since 1974, so we have history and heritage and an exceptional reputation. J. Gordon Designs is housed in a beautiful Chicago 1870s brownstone building. The salon is unique in its décor. It is warm and inviting and it is filled with many interesting original pieces of artwork and antique furniture. The styling stations are old sewing machines with marble tops. The salon is timeless. 
 
As a salon owner, what do you have to do to ensure the growth and success of your business?
 
We have to stay current with trends in services and products, commit to life-long learning  and continue to build our bench. This is how we keep a competitive advantage and continue to grow. We have a staff of 21 people; we all work together to be on top of the game. 
 
So you facilitate  education for your team? 
 
Yes, we have technical classes with guest artists 4 times a year and manufacturer sponsored product knowledge classes 4-6 times a year. The entire team attends advanced education classes at America’s Beauty Show every year. All team members take a travel education trip every 12-18 months for advanced training. We attend many other classes on specialized topics throughout the year too. 
 
What’s the advantage of having a for strong team ethic in your salon business? 
 
To quote business guru Peter Drucker, “Culture trumps all.” I  keep a close eye on our culture. Most of our team members join us straight out of cosmetology school and go through our advanced training program. It allows them time to adapt to our culture, and become a part of it. 
 
What inspired you to be your own salon owner? 
 
I enjoy the process of owning a business. I find the challenges and the problem solving to be stimulating. Above all, I like providing a home for my team to be able to earn a living, support their families, and make some of their life’s dreams come true. 
 
What are the biggest challenges of being a salon owner?
 
 The biggest challenge is keeping up with the ever changing landscape of doing business, be it in technology, social media, changes to employment law, etc. You have to be adaptable.
 
And what are the most rewarding parts? 
 
The most rewarding part is watching your young team members mature and become successful stylists and people. 
 
What keeps hairdressing exciting every day? 
 
 I love the feeling I get when I do a fabulous color. We all know that high you get when you start with something raw and turn it into a masterpiece.  It’s like Michelangelo. He started with a stone that nobody wanted and turned into the statue of David. When you have one those moments, it’s the most incredible feeling.   
 
Why did you decide to join the Ambassadors Program? 
 
Product and education. Both the business and technical education from ARROJO is second to none. The products and the brand imagery they provide helps us attract a different type of clientele. 
 
What do you like about ARROJO product?  
 
I like that it is straight forward. It is not wrapped up in a lot of hocus-pocus, or words that we can’t pronounce. It says what it does...and it does it! The line addresses the current trends in hair fashion.
 
How has ARROJO product impacted your retail sales?
 
 ARROJO has been good for us in that it is younger, hipper, and priced better than other lines. It appeals to clients who were not previously purchasing products from us.
 
Do you feel product can encourage increased visitation and spending from existing clients? 
 
New product changes the dynamic, so it can improve salon success. As business owners, we also have to drive it. For example, in April we ran a promotion whereby if you bought one ARROJO product you saved 10% on a cut, two products, 15%, three products, 20%. It was a great success.
 
As an Ambassador, what ARROJO education seminars have you and/or your staff attended?
 
Lots! American Wave Certification. Expo. Private in-salon classes. Razor cutting classes. Educational classes in NYC.
 
How has the education (from ARROJO) helped your business, your staff, and your clients? 
 
It has helped refine the skills of our younger team members. It has refreshed the skills of our more experienced stylists. It has kept us “on-trend” by teaching us how to create the most current looks. And, it has given us a new technical skills to use on our clients, specifically razor cutting and waving. 
 
In what other ways has Ambassadors helped your business?
 
The ARROJO network has developed into a very strong network of great artists, salon owners and business people. I have met some wonderful people, there is great support system, which is invaluable. 
 
Thanks for chatting! Is there anything else you’d like to say? 
 
I’d like to give a special thank you to Nick Arrojo for being such a strong visionary, a fearless leader, and for elevating the standards of our industry.
 
J. Gordon Designs is located at 2326 N Clark St, Chicago. If you are in the area, we highly recommend them for all your hair care services. Visit the J. Gordon Designs website, here.
 
 
Telephone: 
773-871-0770