On a recent weekday morning, Habibi’s Salon in the Willows was a hive of activity. In one chair sat a woman getting a sleek new cut while her preschooler watched cartoons on the big-screen TV and charmed other customers. Another client settled in for a Keratin straightening treatment, while another was having her hair styled in an elegant updo for a graduation celebration. Then the school-age boys and their mom walked in, desperately in need of a trim. All the while, the phone was steadily ringing with customers that owner Ines Acosta (pictured at left) did her best to fit in today, tomorrow — or later in the week. There was barely a moment for Ines and stylists Mary Rodriguez (pictured in the center) and Vanessa Gonzales to catch a breath.
And that’s exactly the way Ines likes it. She can’t believe that it’s been only a year since she set up shop in Menlo Park, relocating from Manteca where she owned a salon for nine years. “It’s always been my dream to have a hair salon in the Bay Area,” says Ines, who had previously lived and gone to beauty school in Fremont.
The salon, like the neighborhood in which it is based, is truly family focused. Its clientele often includes whole families. “First the parents brought their kids in for haircuts, then the dads came, and finally the mom’s — for coloring, straightening, the works.”
Families especially appreciate the special children’s chairs (Sponge Bob and a race car), the ability to walk in on the weekends, and the salon’s family punch cards (after 10 haircuts, the next one is free). They also like the fact that they can grab a quick latte at Café Zoe, just two doors down. Ines is quick to mention — as so many in the Willows are — the gratitude she feels toward the café’s owner, Kathleen Daly, who made her feel welcome and helped to spread the word about her new business.
And word has spread — with Ines welcoming clients from the rest of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and other local cities. But the strong connection Ines feels with the neighborhood is important to her — and especially fitting for a place that gets its name from an Arabic term of endearment.
How she came to the Willows in the first place is thanks to her husband and business partner Jose Garcia, who was familiar with the Menalto Station business community, which was on his route as a UPS driver. The space has had several tenants over the past few years, but before that had been home to a hair salon for about 20 years.
“I hope to be here for 20 years too,” says Ines, “and see all the kids whose hair I cut, grow up.”
Photo by Linda Hubbard Gulker