By Whitney Phillips Greeley Tribune, Colo.
When Richard Mariani first opened Richie Rich Salon in Greeley last July, he had nothing more than the teal-and-purple lawn chair where his clients would sit.
Mariani, a 29-year veteran in the hair and beauty industry, recently had lost his job. With no place to live, he slept in the salon for two weeks, struggling to find food.
Now, in his salon featuring a metal toolbox for styling tools, rock-and-roll music and hubcap decor, he said he sees losing his job as the shove he needed to start his own salon.
As he continues to refurbish the space and work toward the vision of his dream salon, he keeps the lawn chair to remind him of his roots and his potential for success.
"I know nothing about business, but I love people," Mariani said.
Mariani is charging $8 for men's, women's and kids' hair cuts, something he said has definitely set him apart.
But he also credits the generosity of others for pulling out of those humble beginnings.
He said he's grateful to Sherron Brunner, who owns the group of buildings at 2200 Reservoir Road where Richie Rich is situated, for giving him a chance.
"I'm just so thankful for the opportunity to wake up every day and go in and try to make people feel better about themselves," he said.
Brunner, whose parents owned Morgan Nursery on the same property, said Mariani was a natural fit with the three other businesses on the property: 3 B's Coffee Shop, Morgan Floral and Country Crafts & Supplies.
"We liked his energy," she said. "He made a commitment to us and he stuck to it. He said he'd do certain things and he did."
Mariani said one of his clients gave him the first $475 to get the salon. Since then, he's seen numerous acts of charity, from the person who donated a refrigerator full of food to a woman who gave him a $300 tip.
Because of all the generosity he's seen, Mariani said he's working to give back to his community, donating haircuts at local churches and sponsoring a softball team.
Mariani, who worked as the hair and makeup designer for Openstage Theatre Company and the Fort Collins Children's Theatre, said he hopes to work with other charitable organizations, and he also wants to help promote other entrepreneurs.
"I want to pay it forward so bad," he said.
Mariani, who went to school at Greeley stylist James Lobato's James International, said he hopes to be an instructor and eventually have his own school.
For now, he's teacher and mentor to daughter Kelsey, who does hair design and nails at the salon.
"He has a lot to teach people about their own hair, about how to do their hair," Kelsey Mariani said. "He is a very caring person."
Boston Steve, also a veteran hair designer with 23 years in the business, offers haircuts and color at Richie Rich.
Mariani also offers special-occasion up-dos and wedding packages.
Mariani said he does $8 hair cuts because he knows people are struggling.
"I'm not looking to get rich," he said. "I just want to help the people who really need it."
Casey Cummerfeld, who runs Morgan Floral with her mother Susan Morgan, said she sees more and more happy customers come from Mariani's salon to her business.
"That corner was just kind of lonely and empty, and now it's bustling with life because of Richard," Cummerfeld said.
"Both of our businesses are very service-oriented, and he is a natural for that," Morgan added. "He takes pride in serving whoever walks through his door."