Surprise power of the grand pamper

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IT’S been years since I enjoyed having a haircut. My barbers have either been a bunch of raging right-wing racists who made the whole thing infuriating, or pleasant chaps who spend more time joking with each other than concentrating on the job at hand. 

But that all changed when a chance meeting at the “CityNews” Christmas party led me to a remarkable new concept in hairdressing for women and men – Zaija – in City Walk near the entrance to the Canberra Centre.

Actually, to call it a hairdresser (much less a barber) would be like calling the Hyatt a pub just because it serves beer in the bar. Zaija is to hairdressing what the Britannia is to yachting.

It gets you from A to B, but it’s what happens on the journey that makes all the difference.

You are certainly treated royally. My visit began with a delicious espresso at the bar followed by the perfect haircut and shampoo executed by the charming Courtney, and a manicure from Zoe, the daughter of Zaija’s Canberra creator, Anita Gambrill. I was out the door within half an hour and feeling like a million dollars.

“We try to make it a friendly, memorable experience,” Anita said.

“And it seems to be paying off.”

It certainly does. Zaija opened in March last year after Anita and husband David spent more than 12 months in detailed preparation. They had both succeeded in other people’s businesses – David as CEO of a major IT company, Anita as a top marketing executive – and decided to put everything into their own creation.

Anita did a 12-month course in the beauty business and, inspired by overseas experience, they fashioned Zaija as a one-stop beauty shop that incorporates facials, body scrubs and wraps, massages, teeth whitening, ear piercing, make-up, exfoliation, spray tans and, most recently, an in-house doctor does lip enhancement, face and eyebrow lifts (non-surgical), jawline contouring, forehead, smile and frown lines.

They now have nine full-time and three part-time employees, including a coffee barista and maitre’d who provides a delightful range of drinks and light meals. There’s a clubby atmosphere that attracts both men and women, 35 per cent to 65 per cent respectively and it’s done so well that this year they are opening an outlet in Melbourne with Sydney to follow in 2014.

After that, hello world!

“Success is one thing,” Anita says, “but what I really love is the way we’re able to help people enjoy themselves and their appearance. We really like to make them feel good, from the young ones to the more mature women, and especially the mums who just want a break to pamper themselves for an hour.”

Not bad for ageing male writers, either. Next time, I’m thinking, a body wrap of sea minerals with citrus, rosemary and ginger followed by a soy wax massage. Not sure about the lip enhancement, but a bit of work on the frown and smile lines wouldn’t go amiss…

Robert Macklin is a regular columnist with “CityNews” and the author of “The Gadfly Papers”,

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