Richard Weintraub was studying marine biology unenthusiastically in 1972 when he met hair stylist Paul Mitchell. The encounter inspired Weintraub to visit a friend’s salon, pick up a pair of scissors and begin working on the mannequin’s hair. The experience felt so good that Weintraub quit college and enrolled in a Sarasota beauty school. Eighteen months later, in 1974, he opened Fashion Focus salon. The salon joined the Yellow Strawberry Global Hair network in 1994 and has earned many “Best Hair Salon” honors. Weintraub, 62, opened a second Yellow Strawberry in Lakewood Ranch in 2005 with partners Desmond and Caroline Behan.
How’s business? We have more than $3 million in annual sales at our two salons and 55 employees, including 32 at the Bee Ridge Road salon and 23 in Lakewood Ranch. I also operate a beauty school, Fashion Focus Academy, with my brother, Byron. The school has about 70 students.
Explain Yellow Strawberry. It’s a network of salons that shares information on trends. There are only nine Yellow Strawberry salon operators in the world. One fellow in Florence has seven. There is one in Paris. We get together in France or Italy to share trend information. You have to know the trends before anyone else to stay ahead of the curve in this business.
The toughest part of your job? When people come here looking for a career and we have to say this isn’t going to work because they can’t make it at our level.
The easiest? Standing behind the chair doing someone’s hair. My greatest joy is when they look in the mirror and feel good about themselves. When my sons were very young and would ask what I do, I never said I was in the hairdressing business. I would say I was in the feel-good business.
Ever make a mistake? Every mistake known to man. When I was right out of beauty school, products were terrible. You had to learn everything the hard way with colors and chemicals. Products are much better today, and yet there is a lot of stuff on the market that isn’t good for you. That is why we developed a Yellow Strawberry product line that doesn’t have a lot of chemicals.
What people might not know about you? By Aug. 5, I will be an Olympic Level 2 martial arts coach. My youngest son is a competitive martial artist, and I coach him and his fellow students. My older son is a state champion in martial arts.