Alexandria, VA – Primary Colors Salon, founded by George Smith, owned by Chau Chu, is closing its doors, but its employees are not going away. George, Chau, and the stylists at Primary Colors will be moving to NewImage Salon at West End Village to start a new hair era. The new salon is on Picket Street, just off Duke Street, in Alexandria.
George Smith grew up in Watertown, New York, near the Canadian border. He was the second of four sons and spent summers surrounded by family in a community on Lake Ontario. In 1973, George entered the United States Air Force, was stationed in Texas, California, and then D.C. While in the District, he worked for White House Communications during the Carter Administration.
George’s next step was a bit of a departure from his predicted career path: attending cosmetology school in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1979. After completing school in 1980, George moved back to the D.C. area with Navy friends and started a career in the hair industry.
Working at Woodward & Lothrop salons, he began training stylists under Jean Louis David. “Deciding that entrepreneurism was the next step for me,” says George, “I opened An’geo Hair Skin and Nails at Baileys Crossroads, and then Primary Colors in Fairlington Centre in 1987.”
Following a successful start in the salon business, George decided to pursue a second career in real estate with Re/Max. Thanks to this newfound passion, George sold Primary colors to Chau Chu in 2006. They had worked together for 20 years at the salon.
“I was under the impression that with real estate, you would have fewer people to answer to. It was a surprise to find out there were several areas in the transaction where you are involved administratively and emotionally,” says George. “I still enjoy real estate, though, and my passion for working in the hair biz makes me never want to retire.”
Over the years, George has seen trends come and go and has had fun altering clients’ looks when they do. “I started in the business when we specialized in perms, then it was all about color, and then retiring the frosting cap for highlights with foils!”
George notes that a special part of the job is working with the young and those who have a little history behind them. “Youngest clients get their first haircuts, and that is a special occasion. We are also proud to serve several who have reached the golden years and have seen all those trends ebb and flow.”
Outside of the salon, George spends time celebrating 18 years with his partner, Russ Boyce, and the beautiful family they have built together, which includes ten grandchildren. “We spend as much time in Sarasota, Florida, as we can, especially in the colder months, and enjoy taking the grandkids there in sets of four,” says George. “We have been blessed to make great memories as G-Daddy and Poppy-Gee.”
George holds both his personal family and his salon family dear. “Working in hair, your clients become family. We celebrate their graduations, weddings, and mourn with those we have lost. Doing hair has been like enjoying my favorite hobby and nothing like going to a job every day.”
Just as George’s own family has grown, his salon family is doing the same at much the same speed.
“Chau has owned Primary Colors for 15 years and, like me, decided it was time to simplify life and work again as an employee instead of an employer. It has been fascinating to witness a young woman, new to the United States, start as a shampoo assistant, become a manicurist, hairstylist, and salon owner. Primary Colors has always been like a family; Elizabeth, Lynn, and Angie have worked with us for almost 20 years.”
As a family unit, they are now excited about joining the team at NewImage. George says, “We look forward to your continued support and sharing this new adventure with us.”