Sunday, December 8, 2013
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Allan Labos, owner of Akari in Portland, says about 200 clients come through the salon, retail and spa business each day. He plans to add to his staff of 50 employees as Akari continues to grow.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Labos went from charging $150 -- the New York price -- for a haircut to $18, the going rate then in Portland.
Over time, Akari expanded in the Fore Street space and added day spa services, such as facials, massages, manicures and makeup consultations.
"Everybody said you can't do it up here," Labos recalled. But Labos saw that people were moving into Greater Portland from other areas and missed the services they were accustomed to.
One recognition of Akari's accomplishments came this summer, when the business won second place in the national "Salons of the Year" contest run by the influential trade publication Salon Today.
The business moved to Middle Street in 2007. Savi Realty -- a name formed by combining the names of Labos' daughters, Saffron and Violet -- bought the property for $2.5 million that year, according to city property records.
STAFF ALSO WILL EXPAND
Akari now occupies parts of 193 and 195 Middle St., a property that looks like two separate buildings that are actually adjoined.
After expansion, the retail area will triple in size and fill the ground level of 195 Middle St., the space formerly occupied by the Old Port Pharmacy and the clothing boutique Chantal. The second and third levels, which stretch across both street addresses, will continue to be used for the hair and nail areas and the spa, respectively.
Labos expects that the change will require increasing the size of his staff, which currently stands at 50 employees, by about 10 percent.
It's a point of pride for Labos that each of the positions at Akari is home-grown.
One such example is Genevieve Drzewianowski, the training director for hair. Four years ago, she was a recent graduate of the Maine College of Art who didn't own a blow drier. Drzewianowski, who studied metals and jewelry, was applying for a front desk job.
Labos encouraged her to get into hair because she was an artist. She started as an assistant -- doing chores like cleaning toilets, shampooing clients and making coffee -- and learned her new trade at the salon after hours.
"I never expected I would be doing this," she said. "Once I started, it made sense."
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: