Walk up a flight of stairs to Raven – A Hair Color Studio on Watchung Avenue, and you leave the busy street behind, as you are greeted with the calming smell of incense and some classic ’70s rock in an intimate space with tree tops views that’s full of positive and relaxing energy.
That’s exactly the vibe owner Tracy Nicastro was going for when she decided to go into business for herself, after working 31 years in the salon industry, and opened Raven.
After working at Parlor Salon on Glenridge Avenue for the past 12 years, Nicastro toyed with the idea of using her extensive experience in the field to make a place of her own.
“It was really just the essence of timing, I was ready to roll on my own and just be my own little leader,” she said. “I don’t want to say I was actively looking for it, but I knew I was at a crossroads, I just kind of wanted to do color, and it kind of just organically happened.”
With the idea in motion, Nicastro woke up suddenly at 4 a.m. one night, questioned why she was doing this, and started researching for a spot to call her own.
When she stumbled upon the perfect second floor space at 127 Watchung Ave., she jumped at it and brought her old coworker Mark Christopher Rowbotham on board to establish the hair coloring duo that fuels Raven.
“It’s a unique little space. People like that it’s intimate, people like that it’s on the second floor…so it’s not a walk-in place,” Nicastro says. “I tout it as a unique, funky boutique for hair color. It’s a unique house for hair, but we have four seasons treatment for you.”
Raven has been open for just about nine weeks and specializes in hair color, while making an active effort to support local businesses and use mostly farm-to-table products that are biodegradable and natural.
That goes for the coffee Nicastro puts out for her clients (organic and from independent roasters) and the snack basket brimming with gluten free options and fresh fruits. She also puts a lot of emphasis in making the space at Raven as comfortable as possible, buying washable fabric so clients can put their feet up, kick back and enjoy their appointment.
“I try to keep everything organic, supporting other small business because I’m like that and want to stay like that,” she said. “I’m not looking to grow into a big powerhouse salon. At this stage of my life, I just want to be comfortable and I just want to do what I love doing best. I just want to color hair.”
Even so, customers leave with more than just their hair colored. They tend to leave with their soul refreshed and their mood uplifted, according to Nicastro.
“I noticed that something energetically was happening here,” said Nicastro recalling certain moments in where clients originally came in to their appointment feeling tense or stressed but left smiling, appearing more relaxed and talkative.
“Everybody leaves here feeling internally good, not just outwardly because their hair is done,” Nicastro says. “You can tell something made them feel really good. Something shifted inside them and I really believe it’s the energy here.”
Raven – A Hair Color Studio, 127 Watchung Ave., Unit 4, Montclair, 973-830-0834. On Instagram @ravenahaircolorstudio.