Putting Dreams on the Front Burner
Nackie Karcher is getting ready to celebrate nearly 10 years as a salon owner with the debut of a new space in Brooklyn that reflects the character of the neighborhood, but with tropical accents that recall Nackie’s Florida roots. She and business partner Meg Costello have created an environment for their business to thrive over the next 10 years.
Where are you from originally?
I’ve been in New York 15 years now. I’m originally from St. Petersburg Florida, I also grew up in the Florida Keys. New York is very different from that.
How long have you been working as a hairdresser?
I’ve been doing hair now for 25 years. When I was 9, my parents gave me a mannequin head and a braid book; their best friends owned a cosmetology school in the area so they hooked me up and I learned braiding, mostly fishtail and some french. When I was in high school they kept trying to get me to go to school there part time because they said, ‘You can graduate at 16 and you’ll be a full fledged hairstylist.’ I didn’t do that because, what teenager wants to go to school after they’ve been in school all day? So I went to college for art, and after I left I decided to go to hair school.
What did you study at art school?
I studied photography and ceramics. I love photography. I still pick up a film camera every once and a while especially now that I have kids and want to document them in a more permanent sense. Photography is how I got into session styling and working freelance doing photoshoots for fashion and commercial work. I think that taking pictures helps you to see the full picture and not just the hair; you get to see how everything looks. Actually doing hair feels more like sculpture to me. I like to close my eyes to feel density and texture, which can inspire me to create a shape.
You specialize in cutting. Do you do color too?
I predominately cut, but I do a little color. My color is really gentle, more hand painting. I like to use it to really make a haircut pop.
You recently moved.
Yes. I was at our last location almost 10 years. Our neighborhood has been changing like crazy and I really wanted to stay another 10 years, so I wanted a long lease. I wasn’t able to get that in the last location so we found this space which was a tarot card place. When we walked up the stairs to look at it for the first time it gave me a big wink, so I knew that this would be it, but it took about 8 months to get it. The Karcher, as a salon, has been open since 2009, which means next year will be our 10th anniversary, and we’ll celebrate hard.
Did you always know that you wanted to open a salon?
No, I knew that I never wanted to open a salon... and yet, here we are. But, it’s been really amazing and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had a friend ask me, ‘What was harder: Childbirth or opening your own business?’ and I told her, ‘Opening my own business without a doubt.’ It was so hard. When we did relocate, I took on my partner, Meg who’s been with me 9 years. We like to joke that it’s like having a wife, so we’ve got each other, we recognize what we’re both good at and try to support each other in those things. One of my responsibilities is general maintenance, so if something needs to be screwed or drilled, I’m your person. Having a good partner in life, and in business, I think really helps to make us more successful. Now I’m not stretched so thin, and the dreams I have can actually happen instead of being put on the back-burner.
How is the new space different than the original?
Our last space was inspired by the whole Brooklyn, turn-of-the-century style, so we had a lot of dark wood and brick walls. We actually had a beautiful bar at the entrance, and people would ask us if we were a bar or a coffee shop; it really was the focal point of the space. Taking it with us would be like uprooting a tree, so we left it. Because of the the way the industry is changing, we wanted to be less focused on the front desk experience In the new space, and more on the stylists’ responsibility for their schedule and their clients instead of counting on the front desk. So, when we moved, we replaced it with a glass table with the idea of transparency.
We have much more light; we went from black trim to white trim; we took off decals on the mirrors; everything is much more stripped down and feels more clean. We added a lot of plants and our palm tree mural, which feels very me and my Key West roots but also fits with my partner’s aesthetic. We wanted to modernize both how we operate and our aesthetic, with a more modern logo. We’ve been here for 10 years and we’re looking at what the next 10 is going to look like. The move was a really good opportunity to change things and refresh, which can be hard, but I feel very blessed that everything came together energetically.
We noticed that you don’t use hydraulic chairs. Why not?
We don’t work with hydraulic chairs because we want people to feel grounded. We sit a lot when we’re cutting so there’s less stress on our bodies. We also don’t use capes; we use cutting robes so we can actually see how the hair works with the whole body. The chairs inspire us to have our clients stand up so we can see them from all angles and make tweaks. I feel more comfortable sitting down, and I feel really clumsy around a hydraulic chair.
Do you have a favorite Hairstory Product?
I love New Wash (Original). I think it’s amazing and everyone in my family uses it. I use it to shave my legs, to wash my body, to wash my dog. I also love Undressed. I’m somebody with fine hair so most of the time I’m fine washing and going, but sometimes I just want a little texture in my hair. I find that it’s really great because you can build on it. I love that sometimes I feel like I should wash my hair but I can spray a little bit of Undressed and get another day out of it, which is kind of wild for a product. It made me look at my own hair and realize that I don’t have to wash as much.
What do you love most about being a hairdresser?
I love working with my hands but most of all I love creating. I always see a shape within a shape. I feel inspired by other hairstylists now because I feel like there are so many new ways to experience what other hairstylists are doing. For example, seeing Jayne Matthews from Edo salon teach at Hairstory recently and what she’s doing with her haircuts made so much sense. It’s a reminder of why it is that I love hair. I have my signature haircut, but it’s fun to incorporate things from other people and see how they meld. It’s nice to see that things aren’t so much about the technical aspect of cutting anymore; hairstylist are being recognized for themselves and their unique abilities. There are no secrets. A friend of mine always says, “The universe has unlimited resources to help you and make you soar.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the things we did in our old location before we got too busy doing hair, was to use our space as a community space. We would host events and bazaars; we’d have music events or spoken word nights. Resetting ourselves in this new space is allowing us to get back into that community where we can provide people with a little space to express themselves. I feel like people and spaces can’t just be one thing anymore, you have to be flexible.