886 4th Street, San Rafael
Owners: Bishlam and Amy Bullock
What are you best known for?
We’re great at high-end hair color, from balayage to exotic fashion color. I’m a certified master colorist through Wella and a certified master haircutter from Vidal Sassoon. What made me a great stylist, though, was a four-year training at DiPietro Todd Salon in San Francisco.
My wife is a master stylist and is great at creative color. Our focus is on textured and curly hair.
We have a huge multicultural clientele that we take care of like family. It isn’t always about hair, it’s about connection with people, too. We consider the space our home and people who join us are family.
Who designed your salon?
I designed the structure with the redwood features and cabinetry, floors and paint. Everything decorative is by my wife, Amy.
Are you a local guy?
I was born and raised in Marin City. I went to Tam High, College of Marin, and lived everywhere from Marin City to Novato.
What is the origin of your name?
My uncle, who was a 1960s Black Panther kind of guy named me. Bishlam is a Biblical name that means “of peace.” I didn’t like my name, but I grew into it.
What inspires you?
Interacting with people who are change makers in our communities or in the hair industry. I want to know people who’re willing to give their time to take care of other people. That’s how I run my life.
Before I was a salon owner, I was …
An artist, photographer and painter, and a father right out of high school. I fronted a couple of bands as lead singer and recorded and made music for rappers. But I took any job that was available to take care of my daughter. I worked at the carwashes in the Canal and in Novato, at Craig’s Warehouse, Mervyn’s and JC Penney. I also worked with autistic kids through the Marin County Office of Education.
How did you end up in hair styling?
When I learned that Marin County was offering scholarships for the beauty school on 4th Street, I thought free education, it can’t hurt. I found I liked both the social and artistic aspect of hair styling and have been doing it for 20 years.
How long have you had the salon?
I’ve been in my own salon about 10 years, first in a smaller space and now in our current spot for five or six years. It’s me, my wife Amy and Judy Winfrey, who’s a master colorist and master hair cutter. Judy helped me learn color when we were at Shylocks, a salon over on 5th Avenue.
How has the Internet impacted your business?
In a good way. Most people in our industry didn’t know about Yelp 17 years ago when I started asking clients to leave reviews. My business took off. When my wife came into the business, she became an integral part of our big online presence, using Instagram to help shape the story of who we are.
On the retail side, the sale of hair products, I’ve recognized that customers want to buy from us. But it needs to be new, unique and competitive. We have a very curated product line because we always ask our clients what they want and how they liked it. If they say terrible, we don’t keep it.
If you weren’t a salon owner you’ be …
I’d be doing community service and traveling the world. I want to see the mountains of Thailand.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
My family. I have three daughters, 26, 20 and 17. They’re all incredible young women, strong, powerful and healthy, productive, good people. And my wife is beautiful and magical.
Also, as an African American man in a predominantly Caucasian county, I’m proud to have founded and grown a successful business. I didn’t finish college but I followed my passion and figured it out, and I’m very grateful for my success.
Do you have a hidden talent?
I’m a motocross racing freak. I race and ride every weekend all over Northern California. I belong to a racing club, an over-the-hill gang.
What’s the hardest lesson you learned in starting a business?
To not run my business all the time. It’s hard to take my hands off the wheel sometimes, and let it evolve the way it wants to. The business will tell you what it needs.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a salon?
With current lease rates in our area, I’d encourage them to do a hybrid, creating a group of independent stylists who can rent space together. Use the same product line and share those profits.
How has the salon enriched the community?
We’re constantly involved in community service. We’re doing a clothing drive for students in Marin City, collecting polo shirts and khaki pants. And we recently raised over $5,000 for the Streets Team. We know a lot of people and are in a unique position to effect change in our community.
Which famous person would you like to visit your salon?
The Obamas. I’d like to see the Michelle and Barack team.
I wish I could…
Get a message to the dyslexic kids—you can succeed. Dyslexia may not be an advantage in a standard educational environment, but it has helped me in art, music, communications. It gives you a unique way of looking at things.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia in 8th grade and worked with tutors to graduate from the alternative high school at Tam. But I discovered at College of Marin, that I was a great student. They had tools that worked for me. For example, I could record my classes and I got straight A’s.