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New salon HBAR brings style to Stamford’s Harbor Point BY KEVIN ZIMMERMAN kzimmerman@westfairinc.com

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hat do you do when your long-held dreams of opening your own business finally come to fruition — and then a vicious pandemic hits? If you’re Antonio Rende, you delay opening for roughly eight months and hope for the best. “Starting a new business is always risky and scary — but this was beyond anything I could have imagined,” Rende said. He can afford to be more cheerful now as his HBAR Salon & Spa, originally set to open last March, finally did so in Stamford’s Harbor Point development on Nov. 6 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by Stamford Mayor David Martin. “We’ve been doing pretty well, especially considering” Covid-19, Rende said. “We’ve hit all our numbers and I’ve been fortunate in that a lot of my clients have followed me from New York. They drive 45

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to 90 minutes to see me, which is really a blessing.” The salon is now welcoming plenty of new customers, both women and men, he noted. The 2,000-square-foot salon at 140 Washington Blvd. features four stylists working at a time, along with an aesthetician, a nail tech and a massage therapist. Once HBAR can operate at full strength, it will probably employ around 15. Rende said he was also fortunate when it came to designing the space, in that the idea was always to have its chairs spaced far apart. It’s something of a homecoming for the owner and stylist, who grew up in Stamford and regularly accompanied his mother to a salon. “I’ve been in hair salons since I was four,” he said. “I always loved the atmosphere — but hated the smell!” His journey includes years working at other salons in Manhattan, and for a while in Seattle, where his husband landed FCBJ

WCBJ

a job; even then, he said, he would fly back to New York every three weeks “to take care of my clients. “It took me 15 years to build my clientele,” he said, “so Seattle just wasn’t going to be the final stop.” He initially considered a space in Greenwich, but when that fell through he was given a tour of Harbor Point. “I was floored by the turnaround,” he recalled. “We were not even allowed to go there when we were kids.” Having signed a lease there on March 6, Rende said he felt helpless as Covid continued to spread, forcing salons to close — and with a seven-day grace period to back out quickly coming to an end. “When we got to the eight-day mark, I started to panic,” he said. “But (landlord) BLT worked with me and we made it through.” As for making the jump to entrepreneurship, he said, “I always wanted to open my own salon and the timing felt right.” In addition to the standard

Covid-mandated protocols — something doubly important when providing massages — Rende said HBAR goes the extra mile with products that are ammonia-free, certified vegan and paraben free, as well as being recognized by Leaping Bunny and PETA as cruelty free. “That has always been a big priority for me,” he said. “So many people have sensitivity issues and a lot of times there can be problems with moisturizers, shampoos and even towels. This way they can have a ‘normal’ experience without having to question anything.” As for the HBAR name?

(top) The interior of the salon. (bottom) Antonio Rende, owner of HBAR.

“Personally I’ve always thought it’s kind of tacky when a salon is named after someone,” he said. “Everyone I know says, ‘But that can give you a real sense of pride.’ Fortunately, my husband solved it by coming up with HBAR — which isn’t, as a lot of people think, short for ‘Hair Bar’ but stands for ‘Hair By Anthony Rende.’ “That works for me,” he said.

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The Business Journals - Week of February 15  

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