I rarely give much thought to my hair, but I must cop to some paranoia as I sit down at Bread Winners to share a meal with Bruno Mascolo near his West Plano home. Am I imagining things, I wonder, or is he glancing at the top of my head often as we talk, considering how much help my styling needs?
The Mascolos are a family of hairdressers. Bruno’s father and grandfather cut hair. Three of his four brothers helped build the Toni&Guy chain of salons back home in England, and Bruno himself reinvented many a hairdo while growing the company’s North American operations from a single Dallas location in 1985 to 45 salons and 16 hairdresser academies today.
Hairdressing is a young person’s game, he says, and his wardrobe suggests Mascolo is much younger in spirit than his age (63) would suggest. I spot him easily upon entering the restaurant, which is filled with a boisterous Saturday morning crowd. He’s got a soul patch under his mouth, he’s wearing a fedora with an upturned brim, the collar of his shirt is flipped up, and his shirt sleeves are rolled up over his casual blazer. This cat is way cooler than me.
The corporate headquarters of Toni&Guy North America remains in Carrollton, but Mascolo spends most his time these days in California. His younger son (he has four children, three grandchildren) is in a rock band, and the Los Angeles area is better for a music career. Plus, Mascolo’s wife of 22 years likes living near the beach.
The Toni&Guy story began 48 years ago in London, with a salon operated by Bruno’s two older brothers, Giuseppe and Gaetano, nicknamed Toni and Guy, respectively. Bruno opened the company’s first successful American salon in Texas only because his girlfriend at the time was from the area. But the move turned out to be a wise one.
“Dallas has the most beautiful women in the world, without a shadow of a doubt,” he says in an English accent that’s softened from his more than 25 years in the United States. “The hairdressing that the hairdressers were doing here at that time  wasn’t, in my mind, interpreting the beauty of the ladies as much as what they could.”
When we order our meal, I ask for French toast and a glass of orange juice. Mascolo requests two pieces of buttered wheat toast and half a sliced banana to go with his coffee. When the food arrives, he’s been given an entire banana, unsliced, but with the peel removed from one side. My French toast is regretfully tough.
[inline_image id=”1″ align=”r” crop=””]Mascolo’s work and family lives overlap significantly, and that hasn’t always been a good thing. In 2002, disagreements over how to run the business led to a “de-merger” of Toni&Guy. Bruno and brothers Guy and Anthony took North American operations and the TIGI brand of hair products, while oldest brother Toni kept the rest, including hundreds of salons worldwide.
“He took everything that was making profit and gave me everything that wasn’t,” Bruno says. Successful changes made in the TIGI division meant Toni&Guy North America soon earned far more revenue from hair care products than salons. At one point TIGI brought in $250 million in annual revenue, compared to $60 million to $70 million from the salons. Although good for the bottom line, it moved the company’s focus away from the core business: cutting hair. The result, Bruno says, was that their salons merely maintained the status quo, rather than push stylists and creative directors to continually innovate.
Which is why he was thrilled in 2009 when Unilever purchased the TIGI line for $412 million. It wasn’t just a nice payday. It was a chance to set aside products to focus again on the salons and their customers. But just as they were plotting this reinvention, Guy Mascolo died suddenly. Bruno was devastated.
“I’m thinking, ‘What’s life all about?’” he says of the time just after he lost his brother.
“What is life all about?” I ask.
“It’s about the journey, man. Because when you come to the end of the goal, when you’ve accomplished the goal and you don’t have another goal going forward, that’s the end,” he says. The ephiphany gave him “strength and a new energy to look at the things we were going to do and re-inspire myself.”
He replaced much of the Toni&Guy management team and charged the new creative director, his nephew, with re-imagining the business.
“The innovation in hairdressing is the changing of the styles,” Bruno says. “We’re forever inventing new looks, adaptable looks. Not just things that are outrageous, but also that are practical.”
All these changes have him believing that the company is moving forward again, with plans for careful expansion that involve setting up hairdressing academies in each new market, to train potential staff, before opening salons.
Though now he faces some unexpected competition—from his brother Toni. After the 2002 split, Toni gave up the right to use the Toni&Guy name in North America, but that hasn’t stopped him from opening salons stateside under a different banner: Essensuals London. Its second American outpost set up shop in Bruno Mascolo’s backyard, at the Shops at Legacy in Plano. Bruno isn’t shy about expressing his displeasure about the rift that his brother’s move has caused in the family—even as he tries to stay positive.
“Because I really feel excited. I feel excited about my family. I feel excited about my job. I feel excited about everything—except my brother Toni.”