The cou­ple who are a cut above

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS -

Hair­dressers Alan and Alex Keville strug­gled dur­ing the re­ces­sion, but a strong con­nec­tion got them through, says An­drea Smith

ALAN Keville says that while he al­ways felt his wife Alex Reid was the “girl of my dreams”, the lit­mus test came when she rowed in with un­wa­ver­ing sup­port when the hair sa­lon they opened in Dublin dur­ing the re­ces­sion strug­gled to thrive.

“Like any re­la­tion­ship, it was a lust­ful, can’t-keep-your-hands-of­fone-an­other thing at the be­gin­ning, but the turn­ing point for me was when we opened in Dublin,” he says. “I had been on stage in hair shows all over the world and came to Dublin think­ing we were great, but we com­pletely fell on our faces. We opened just off Grafton Street with mas­sive over­heads, and put €150k of our own money into the fit-out, but we only had two clients a day for the first two years and it was such a tough time.”

As he re­calls the stress, Alan be­comes vis­i­bly emo­tional and says it was Alex who kept him go­ing. They were over­drawn on their busi­ness ac­count, per­sonal ac­counts and credit cards, but faced the dif­fi­cul­ties to­gether.

“Alex said that money meant noth­ing and it was just about the two of us,” he says. “She said we’d get through it to­gether and we did and it has been amaz­ing.”

Part of get­ting through it meant work­ing from 7am to 9pm six days per week, and the sa­lon be­gan to thrive as the econ­omy re­cov­ered and is now a huge suc­cess. It has just moved to a big­ger home on the top floor of Pow­er­scourt town cen­tre, and has branches in Naas and Wex­ford that are also do­ing great. Their ethos is to re­main cur­rent and cut­ting-edge while pro­vid­ing a wel­com­ing, un­pre­ten­tious at­mo­sphere for cus­tomers.

When Alan first met Alex at a hair com­pe­ti­tion in the RDS in 2009, he was slightly miffed that she didn’t re­mem­ber him from the year be­fore. Alex had won on that oc­ca­sion at a com­pe­ti­tion in Cork, and Alan was on the judg­ing panel.

“I thought, ‘My God, she’s gor­geous’,” he says. “I could re­mem­ber what her hair was like, the dress she wore and her shoes, but she hadn’t a clue who I was when we met again.”

In her de­fence, Alex was too fo­cused on the com­pe­ti­tion to no­tice any­one else. “I was only 21 and was more wor­ried about not mum­bling and win­ning the com­pe­ti­tion than try­ing to flirt with the judges,” she laughs. “I watched the show and Alan was on the stage and I thought he was very at­trac­tive. I was more at­tracted to his skills though be­cause I’m a real ‘ hair nerd’ and he’s so good at hair­dress­ing.”

Alex (31) grew up just out­side Manch­ester and her dad John — “the smartest per­son” — is from North­ern Ire­land while her “very sup­port­ive” mum Ch­eryl is English. Her par­ents sep­a­rated when she was 12 and her mum de­cided to move to Bere Is­land when Alex was 15. She loved it there, and at 17 she moved to Cork city to train as a hair­dresser at Ikon Hair De­sign. Her mum now lives in Ey­eries on the Beara Penin­sula.

Want­ing to fur­ther her skills, Alex went reg­u­larly to Lon­don to train at Ma­hogany, and Alan (42) looked af­ter train­ing at fran­chises world­wide for this com­pany, in tan­dem with run­ning his own sa­lon, Alan Keville for Hair, in Wex­ford.

‘It was a can’t-keep­y­our-hands-off-onean­other thing at the be­gin­ning’

He chose to open it in Wex­ford as Dublin was too ex­pen­sive and his par­ents Mar­ian and Bren­dan had moved there from Tal­laght, where Alan grew up. He left school when he fin­ished his Ju­nior Cert, and had two choices at that time. The first was to do a plumb­ing ap­pren­tice­ship, and the sec­ond was to be­come a hair­dresser, as his aunts San­dra, Jac­inta, Joan and un­cle Ed­win have a sa­lon, Keville Hair Care in Rath­farn­ham.

“I tried plumb­ing and it was hor­ren­dous, as I was out­doors dig­ging trenches in the rain,” he laughs. “Then I went to try hair­dress­ing, and al­though the money was shock­ing, it was in­doors and full of girls, so happy days.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship, Alan worked for Peter Mark, Toni & Guy and Zoo, and then opened his sa­lon in Wex­ford. When they first met, Alan couldn’t un­der­stand a word of Alex’s Manch­ester-crossed-with-cork ac­cent. They didn’t start dat­ing ini­tially as they were both at the tail end of other ro­mances, but upon learn­ing that Alex planned to go to Lon­don, Alan in­vited her to join him at the sa­lon he in­tended to open in Dublin. In the mean­time, she went to work with him in Wex­ford, which is where their ro­mance blos­somed in 2010 as both were sin­gle by then.

Alan and Alex were mar­ried on New Year’s Eve 2017 and they have a trea­sured daugh­ter, Ad­di­son, who turns four next month. While Alan goes be­tween the three salons, Alex is based at the Dublin one, and Alan says that she’s ex­tremely tal­ented and clients adore her warm, chatty man­ner. Alan’s mum Mar­ian comes up and minds Ad­di­son from Wed­nes­day to Satur­day ev­ery week and they’d be lost without her. Ac­tu­ally, all four grand­par­ents are fab­u­lous, they say.

Sun­day is their fam­ily day, so they bring Ad­di­son out for break­fast and go to the Peo­ple’s Park to buy fudge. Alan is also part of the RNLI life­sav­ing team in Dun Laoghaire and helms both boats there. He got in­volved be­cause his dad Bren­dan is area of­fi­cer for the coast­guard in Wex­ford at Cur­r­a­cloe. It’s very re­ward­ing, he says, al­though there are some very sad and chal­leng­ing as­pects too, of course.

“Alan is su­per-fo­cused so he makes things hap­pen, no mat­ter what the ob­sta­cles are,” says Alex. “I’m so pas­sion­ate about my own job and he is such a bril­liant hair­dresser that he in­spires me ev­ery day. He’s also a very kind per­son and puts other peo­ple be­fore him­self. He’s un­tidy around the house but he’s not bad to look at, in fair­ness.”


Alan Keville and Alex Reid run hair salons in Dublin, Naas and Wex­ford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

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