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AMBOY SPOTLIGHT: Fernando’s Unisex Styling LLC

By Katherine Massopust—

PERTH AMBOY  — An Interview with Anita Pires, owner of Fernando’s Unisex Hairstyling, 639 Amboy Ave., Perth Amboy.

Amboy Guardian: Did you always want to be a hairstylist or did you start in another profession?

Anita Pires: I have a B.S. in Education and a minor in math. I love math. I was in an accounting department at Sizzler International in Secaucus. It was a temp job that was supposed to be six months but it lasted six years. I loved it and worked there as an accounting clerk.

Amboy Guardian: Did your father (Fernando Viegas, the original owner of Fernando’s) influence your career choice?

Anita Pires: No, he always told me to seek higher education. My mother, Marilla Viegas worked at Revlon for 28 years. My father started out as an apprentice in Joe’s Barber Shop on State Street. He worked there for a bit of time. Joe Baena (the owner) passed away and left the business to my father. My father opened Fernando’s at 175 Hall Ave. from ‘68 to ‘77. He has been in the business since I was born. From 1977 to present, Fernando’s has been located at 639 Amboy Ave. Sizzler International downsized and closed the office and at the same time my father had no one to take over the business. He offered the business to my brother, but he was studying computers and he didn’t want the business.

I said, “What about me?”

He said to me, “You’ll have to go to school for it.”

I said, “I don’t mind. I always wanted to do hair.” I took over the business in 2003.

Amboy Guardian: What school did you attend?

Anita Pires: I went to Reignbow Academy in Perth Amboy. I always wanted to do hair. I’ve always done my own hair. I got my license in 1997. I started working at Fernando’s and have been here ever since.

Amboy Guardian: What process do you enjoy doing the best?

Anita Pires: I love everything. I don’t get up in the morning and hate going to work. We do everything from hair color to hair replacement. Just give me a picture and I can do it.

Amboy Guardian: What is the longest hair that you ever worked on?

Anita Pires: Probably to the butt. For one client, her hair was that long; She wanted a curly perm. There were from 400 to 500 rollers in her hair. It took 7 hours.

Amboy Guardian: Did you ever have a customer that surprised you (going from very long hair to very short hair)

Anita Pires: We do extreme makeovers all the time. I question the client many times before he/she goes through with it to make certain of the decision.

Amboy Guardain: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a beautician?

Anita Pires: The smile after the hair is done. I don’t need words – just the look after the hair is done and to see that the client likes it.

Amboy Guardian: Did you ever have a customer who asked for a specific style that you knew wouldn’t work on that type of hair? How do you solve that problem?

Anita Pires: I try to duplicate something as close as possible.

Amboy Guardian: Do you have a signature cut?

Anita Pires: No.

Amboy Guardian: Who does your hair?

Anita Pires: Patricia (one of Fernando’s stylists) does my hair. Patricia has free reign.

Amboy Guardian: What is the most unusual thing you did with your hair?

Anita Pires: I’ve dyed my hair every color. One New Years Eve I went from long to short (shoulder length to pixie).

Amboy Guardian: How many hair stylists or barbers are at Fernando’s?

Anita Pires: Four. All are full service cosmetologists.

Amboy Guardian: What is the total experience combined?

Anita Pires: 13+18+56+17 = 104 years.

Amboy Guardian: Do you take apprentices?

Anita Pires: I haven’t taken one in 13 years . There were a few over the years. Aida started her own salon. She took over a business in Carteret. There’s not much turnover in Fernandos. It’s like family here.

Amboy Guardian: Who is more difficult to work on: men or women?

Anita Pires: Children are the hardest because of the movement.

Amboy Guardian: What age groups do you take?

Anita Pires: As early as 2 months. You’d be surprised at some who are born with a lot of hair.

Amboy Guardian: Over the years, what processes changed and are easier now?

Anita Pires: Hair color, permanents, blow drying methods. It’s an ever changing business.

Amboy Guardian: How much can you tell about a person from their hair?

Anita Pires: You can tell a lot. You can tell if medication plays a part, if a person is under stress; if a person has splits from over processing or if a person has an abundance of hair loss/weight loss. Everything comes out in hair. You have to ask these questions when doing a chemical process. It’s a very personal business. You have to be brutally honest with people.

Amboy Guardian: Is hairstyling an ongoing learning process?

Anita Pires: In school you get a basic knowledge. You learn a lot by watching. My father always had the salon below. My parents live upstairs. I’ve always watched other hairstylists – my father especially. He would ask me, “Where did you learn this from?” and I would answer, “I guess from watching other people.” We go to the trade shows one or two times a year. The suppliers have classes on their products.

Amboy Guardian: Are any of your children going into cosmetology?

Anita Pires: My daughter Nadine works on Saturdays cleaning (no customer interaction) She is a sophomore in high school. She is aspiring to do hair.

Amboy Guardian: What advice do you have for people interested in cosmetology?

Anita Pires: #1. Be patient. #2 Listen to the customer. #3. Be honest.

Fernando’s Unisex Hairstyling offers salon services for the entire family. It is a full service salon.

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