Richie Arpino has been cutting and styling hair in Buckhead since 1980. But the recent building boom has put his salon on the move, and like many in modern Buckhead, he’s gone from a house to a highrise.
For its first 33 years, Arpino’s salon was in a spacious, two-story house on West Paces Ferry Road, where his clients included actress Julia Roberts. That house was purchased by a developer who built a highrise on the property in 2012, Arpino said.
“But I couldn’t move out of Buckhead because that’s where my clientele is,” Arpino said.
A friend owned a strip mall, Pharr Road Shopping Center, where Arpino was based for three years. Businesses were booted from the strip mall this year for major renovations.
Faced with finding another location in Buckhead, Arpino decided to take advantage of Buckhead’s booming highrise market. This month, Arpino reopened his namesake salon at 550 Pharr Road, the vintage 9-story building with the iconic red entryway located across the street from the Post Office.
“If everything is being torn down and built into a highrise, why not move into a highrise?” Arpino said.
Located on the fifth floor, Arpino Salon is the only hair salon in the building where several fitness and spa businesses operate. Bangkok Station, a Thai restaurant, opened last year and is located on the ground floor.
“I’ve never been up in the sky,” Arpino said. “I think I’m going to start a new trend.”
Arpino hails from New York, where he learned his trade at the renowned Maximus Salon. He said clients love coming to the new location where they can view Buckhead from the salon’s balconies with a glass of wine and catered lunch from Bangkok Station.
“Our clients are loving it. I’m calling it the spa building of Buckhead,” he said.
Arpino made a name for himself when he was the stylist for Roberts when her film “Steel Magnolias” premiered in Atlanta in 1989. He’s gone on to cut and style the hair of other numerous celebrities including Brooke Shields and Andi McDowell.
Even though Georgia has become a movie-making haven, Arpino said his chance of working with celebrities is less likely.
“Now when a celebrity comes to Atlanta, they bring their own hair and makeup person,” he said.
Those working at 550 Pharr Road tend to be young people, Arpino said, so his salon markets to their needs. A Friday “Glow and Blow” special includes a spray tan and hair style combination.
“So you can look great when going out on a Friday night,” he said.
The building where he works also has a history that Arpino remembers fondly.
“I remember when the building had the Pharr Library nightclub [on the ground floor] and I would dance all night,” he said.
In 2012, there were plans by a company to renovate the aging offices at 550 Pharr Road into apartments. That didn’t work out and the building was purchased last year by investors who wanted to keep the building for office space while also updating and renovating the building.
“I wake up can’t wait go to work. Everyone comes into building and say they feel like they’re in New York,” he said.
The location has other assets, including two levels of free underground parking. The building is about 80 percent full, Arpino said, and when the building is full the business owners will chip in for valet service for clients.
“Each floor is different primary color,” Arpino said. “My floor is a beautiful blue. The building is fresh, clean and modern.
“It’s nothing like when I went to the Pharr Library nightclub back in the day,” he said. “I can’t wait to go to work every day.”