Grant Bettjeman found his niche early in life. He talks to about how hairdressing has changed and why building a good rapport with clients is so important.
The glitz and glamour was the main thing that attracted Grant Bettjeman to hairdressing.
He became interested in the trade after being given a pair of professional scissors by a family friend when he was 14.
But it was reading a newspaper article about the opening of the hair salon Michael’s of Remuera that really sealed the deal.
‘‘I thought: ‘Right, that’s where I want to work’. It was like New York arriving in New Zealand.’’
Bettjeman was at boarding school in Hamilton when he wrote to the salon management requesting an apprenticeship. He moved to Auckland the following year and started his training at age 16.
‘‘It had over 30 staff and banks and banks of hairdryers. It was a really beautiful, state of the art salon.’’
Hairdressing techniques were simpler back then but the service was amazing, the 60-year-old says.
Women came in to have their hair set in rollers because blowdrying hadn’t even been invented. They sat under the dryer for a minimum of half an hour and Bettjeman ordered food for them by talking into a speaker box on the wall.
‘‘We would push the button and say ‘could I have a cheese and ham toasted sandwich and a cup of coffee for dryer number 18 please?’.’’
‘‘The cafe next door would bring a little tray, [the client] had their lunch and then they took it away.’’
Next he and his then girlfriend Phif Fortescue spent a few years working in London before returning home, getting married and opening their own salon called Hairkraft in Melanesia Rd. After 15 years they closed up shop and moved to Siena in Italy.
International students made up a lot of Bettjeman’s clientele but he also had a large fan base among the Italian ladies.
‘‘They just loved ‘the tall blond’ they didn’t care that I couldn’t speak much Italian,’’ he says.
When they returned home to Orakei they bought a row of buildings in the Coates Ave shops and opened Bettjemans Hair Salon in 1998.
Over the years the number of staff has grown from six to 25 and three of the original employees still work there.
His clients are also very loyal, some of them have been coming to see him for 40 years.
‘‘There are a lot of very good hairdressers out there now,’’ he says. ‘‘The experience and the relationship that you develop with your hairdresser is the most important thing.’’
But whatever industry you’re in, there are always a few dramas.
At Hairkraft a hairdresser once had a colouring mishap which resulted in bald patches in a client’s hair. The salon looked after her for free for two years until all the hair had grown back.
‘‘It was awful, but I’m proud to say even now that she’s still a client,’’ he says.
Enduring relationships: Some of hairdresser Grant Bettjeman’s clients have been coming to see him for 40 years.