A Cut Above

“I wanted to be the female version of Indiana Jones,” Karma Salon owner Cheryl L. McMahon shared with me recently when asked if she always wanted to work with hair. I couldn’t help but smile at her refreshingly honest response. No offense to archeology, but we’re lucky she opted for scissors rather than a shovel. Her focus on “framing the face” as she puts it, is much appreciated – both locally and at trend-setting venues like New York Fashion Week where she’s been invited to participate twice a year since 2006.

McMahon’s ingeniously arranged studio at 263 College Street (just steps from Chapel) is approaching its twelfth anniversary. She describes finding her special location and the set of beautiful Art Deco styling chairs (gleaming chrome, upholstered black leather, looking straight out of a 1940s movie set) as, well, karma. Which is something she believes in and backs with action, giving back to the community in a number of tangible ways (including shutting the salon for a day so the whole staff

Karma Salon
263 College Street (map)
New Haven, CT  06510
203-777-6333 | salon@karmasalon.com
Tues 9am – 6pm; Wed – Thurs 8am – 8pm;
Fri 8am – 7pm; Sat 7:30am – 5pm
www.karmasalon.com  

could go hammer nails on a Habitat for Humanity house.)

Cheryl is firm in her belief that Karma’s products and services should be earth and animal friendly. “We avoid harsh chemical straightening services here. But we do everything else for hair, including coloring. My favorite challenge is taking a distressed head of hair and finding the best solution.” Additionally, this animal-loving lady doesn’t offer any product tested on animals. “There’s no need,” she says, offering John Masters Organics and Davines, both ethical – and family-owned – beauty brands. “I’m very selective about the products we offer our clientele.”

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Karma is equally caring for its clients. Customers receive a follow-up call to ensure they are happy with their hair, be it color, cut or otherwise. Like a limited warranty, first time customers can try out the new ‘do for seven days and if not 100% satisfied, McMahon and staff welcomes them back for a complimentary “correction”. This weeklong window provides additional assurance to all and exemplifies McMahon’s caring approach to client satisfaction. Says Cheryl, “I don’t want to be an extension of what’s already out there. I want to be the exception.”

Her generosity of spirit and infectious enthusiasm is embodied by her staff as well. Cheryl is justifiably proud of her team. “We invest in training for everyone, so that we keep up with the latest techniques and trends.” Speaking of trends, she says many women are opting for shorter hair in 2012. But – and this is so smart – she advises anyone contemplating the big cut to leave an extra inch on the first pass as a bit of insurance. “You can always come back for a fine-tune to make certain the new look really works for you.”

As I took a seat at salon manager/stylist Stephen Tucker’s chair, I knew I was in for something special. 60 minutes of a brilliant blowout later, I departed Karma with a spring in my step and feeling like a million bucks.

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Nell Alk is a culture and lifestyle writer and reporter. Her work has appeared in myriad publications, both print and online, including Paper Magazine, Manhattan Magazine, Interview Magazine and Rolling Stone, among others. Learn more about her here.

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