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.

Ka­rina Abadia

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.

PHOTO: KA­RINA ABADIA

En­dur­ing re­la­tion­ships: Some of hair­dresser Grant Bet­tje­man’s clients have been com­ing to see him for 40 years.

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