House of Hair

updated 11/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

IN THE UPSWEPT WORLD OF HAIR, WHERE Sassoon is the name on the bathroom bottle, Kenneth the grand old man of glamor and Jose Eber the confidant of Elizabeth Taylor, it would be tempting lo call Charles Penzone—Columbus, Ohio's most prominent hairdresser—a big fish in a little pond. Except that his pond isn't so little. In fact, Penzone's 18,000-sq.-ft. Grand Salon—the size of two high school gyms—is the biggest beauty shop in the country, possibly the world.

"Most hair salons are so unimaginative and small," says the conservatively coiffed entrepreneur as he lords over his labyrinth of 52 mirrored styling stations. "My dream was to have one very well done and large." And so, in October 1991, after graduate students at Ohio State University's business school did a study suggesting that his dream was feasible, Pen-zone opened his super salon adjacent to a suburban shopping complex.

Just one year later the shop is roaring along like a blow dryer gone berserk. On an average day Penzone's place goes through 25 gallons of shampoo and 20 gallons of conditioner, not to mention 7,000 pounds of towels, smocks and other laundry.

What Penzone's customers like is that they can gel a wide range of services—everything from a pedicure lo a scalp massage—without leaving the premises. And there's rarely more than a 10-minute wait, even for those without an appointment. "This is not a beauty parlor, it's a total beauty experience," says Penzone, 47, who supervises a staff of 67 hairstylists, 24 receptionists. 14 manicurists, 7 skin care technicians, 6 massage therapist and 9 pedicurists.

Each week the salon caters to 5.000 clients, who pay $16.50 for haircuts and $61 for perms. Cindy King, 29, a Columbus social worker, says she came "lo get pampered." Eating a grilled chicken lunch in the middle of her $275 day at the spa, which includes a massage, a facial, a manicure, aroma therapy, a haircut, makeup lesson and application, King adds, "It sure is nice to have someone take care of me."

Penzone says it look him 28 years to comb his way to the top. The son of a Columbus postal clerk and a home-maker, he graduated from cosmetology school in 1964 and eventually accumulated a chain of nine salons throughout Ohio. Along the way he acquired a French-style country house on a live-acre estate where he lives with his wife of 24 years, Lynne, 45, their son, Colby, 19, and daughter, Chelsea, 15. In his garage, Penzone keeps his Porsche Carrera convertible, BMW 320 and Ford Explorer.

And if Penzone isn't making it in New York, as the Frank Sinatra song goes, so what? "I couldn't afford lo do this in Paris, L.A. or Manhattan," Penzone says. With his kind of operation, he explains, "I need three acres just for the parking lot."


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