Sexy staff at RazzleDazzle Barbershop
Elena Linares, above, with a customer at RazzleDazzle Barbershop, the 1940s-style brand she founded. “I don’t believe in luck. I believe in jumping on opportunities that are right in front of you,” she says.
There have been a lot of ironies in Elena Linares’ life—the most noteworthy of which is as a former battered wife, she created a 1940s-style barbershop, RazzleDazzle Barbershop, where men are pampered while being titillated by scantily clothed beauticians.
Linares herself has all the best attributes of the Energizer and Playboy bunnies rolled up into one hard-nosed businesswoman. She was a successful trainer, then multi-unit franchisee for Supercuts before starting her own haircut empire in Florida. And at 58, she can show up for work in a red bustier and stiletto heels and still turn heads.
Her upbringing never hinted at such a career. Her parents immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic when she was 6. Old-world, her parents viewed their new Bronx neighborhood as unsafe, Linares says, so she and her eight siblings weren’t allowed out of the house except to go to and from school and for an occasional visit to a park. She was the one chosen to help her mother with the domestic chores, like sewing, cooking and ironing.
As a teen, Linares says she found her life stifling. So she did what any young girl in her situation might do: She latched onto the first boy who was interested in her. She found out she was pregnant with his baby when he kicked her so hard in the back, it sent her to the emergency room. “I went from prison to maximum security (lockdown),” she said about leaving home. Because she was pregnant, they were married, and her life became a vigil of sleeping with one eye open—always hypervigilant to keep her son and herself safe.
Linares attended beauty school, and looked for a way out. “I was humiliated that I had put myself in that situation. I was afraid to tell my parents,” she says, because in their culture, a woman obeys her husband.
After several failed attempts, one night she and her 18-month-old son escaped with just $200 and what they could carry in one backpack. A women’s shelter in Florida took them in. Her first job out of the shelter was with Supercuts, where she subsequently amassed 12 units in Puerto Rico and Florida.
Another man created another irony. Linares sold her franchises to concentrate on running her second husband’s restaurant, but he fired her when the marriage ended. She was now a single mother with three sons.
“I’m a workaholic. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in jumping on opportunities that are right in front of you,” she says. So she made a list of 10 people she knew with money, and “the first person was my backer” for her new endeavor, RazzleDazzle.
The name came from one of the regulars at the restaurant who she ran into while planning her barber concept in 2008. He told her she was always the razzle-dazzle in Randazzle, the Italian restaurant. “I believe in messages,” she said.
Why a concept that puts men on a pedestal?
“I was raised watching my mom pamper my dad,” she said. “My mother would get a bucket of water to massage his feet” when he got home from work. “Men need that pampering.”
There are no buckets for soaking tired feet, but patrons at RazzleDazzle are offered “sugar” when they put on the barber cape —vodka or whiskey. They also get a hand massage by a “dazzler” while getting their hair styled or a straight-razor shave. “We put on a show,” Linares enthuses. “We hire dazzlers right out of beauty school” who are then trained to use both clippers (the domain of barbers) and scissors (stylists’ tool of choice).
Stepping into a RazzleDazzle Barbershop is like stepping back in time. While the employees might be considered underdressed, the décor is definitely overdressed with flaming red walls, a black-and-white checked tile floor, Tiffany-style lamps and chandeliers and gilded-gold framed mirrors. A bevy of framed pictures of a bygone era also decorate the walls.
There are five units open, with the sixth in development. Linares should have no problem selling units. Mark Siebert, CEO of iFranchise who put the franchise documents together for her, said she has the determination to make this into an international brand. As evidenced by the recent International Franchise Expo where she exhibited in June, there are several other brands going after the male clientele. But RazzleDazzle is the one catering to all of a man’s senses.
And just in case you’re wondering about sexual discrimination suits by barbers wanting employment, about 20 percent of her staff is men. “The problem with hiring male barbers,” she says, “is they can’t handle the hormones.”
And, wouldn’t it be ironic if the men looking for pampering at RazzleDazzle weren’t expecting it from a woman in a bustier and black lace stockings?