South of Fifth Blows Us Away

February 25, 2013 | by —virginia gil
photography by Jim Arbogast | Style & Beauty

Danny Jelaca at his South of Fifth salon.

Confident in his talent as a stylist, Danny Jelaca is forthcoming about his so-called shortcomings: being too generous and oftentimes extravagant. The Aveda-trained stylist—and a Libra with a penchant for beautiful things—poured himself into every detail of his luxurious, eponymous South of Fifth boutique salon, and hopes it’s an alternative to the chaos of bigger shops. Jelaca spent eight months building the space from the ground up, applying his yen for extravagance to items such as the peachskin-fabric robes bearing his name, ergonomic shampoo chairs (complete with booster cushions for petite clients), and recessed lighting that both eliminates shadows and renders hair color accurately. His search for high-quality products landed him an exclusive deal with Leonor Greyl’s line of all-natural, sulfite-free products. As for customer service, Jelaca ups the ante by offering micro-mist steam treatments that include a scalp, neck, shoulder, and hand massage with all-natural massage oils to clients. (The hour-long service is $100 with a blow-dry.)

“I don’t like leaving anything out,” he says of his creative process with the salon. Part of that involved personally designing all the salon’s furniture and leasing parking spaces for clients in the neighborhood, which only has metered parking. He rented a station at a nearby salon while waiting for permits. “It was a very humbling experience, but I told myself I had to do it all to learn what’s lacking,” reveals Jelaca, who has focused on cutting and styling for 17 years. He took reservations on his cell phone, shampooed clients, applied color, and cut and styled.

Still, he subscribes to the idea of specialization and employs a team of five young stylists, each of whom is experienced in a different aspect of hairdressing—even shampooing. “I believe that talent trickles [down] from the top. At [Stella Salon, Johanna Stella] was the talent at the top; she gave us all a chance and showed us all the way,” he says about the now-defunct salon in Miami Beach where he got his start. Jelaca endeavors to foster talent and provides classes and training sessions for new employees. “I feel like I have a lot to give back, and I think that comes out in the hair [I do],” he says.

Though managing a business was just an afterthought for many years, the “scary decision” is one of which Jelaca is proud, and he’s learning to navigate its intricacies every day. “I feel like a million bucks,” he says. “You know when you’re doing the right thing so you don’t have any reservations? That’s how I feel.”

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