Women have been making a choice since hair salons re-opened from the pandemic: Go out in public, with some trepidation, or live with hair that looks like an overgrown forest. Maricel Cunningham is giving women a better option: a private suite—By Maricel—within the Eli Tanous salon at the Shops at Riverside, Hackensack. Once you step into her suite, Maricel is the only other person with you. The space has been configured so you don’t move from sink to color station to cutting station. “You feel more pampered when you don’t have to shuffle around the salon,” she said. You can sit and relax while Maricel restores your hair to its best shape with the services you want: coloring, straightening, cutting or blowout. She is allowing plenty of time between clients to thoroughly clean, and does not take walk-ins. “You can feel safe in my space,” she said.
The new By Maricel suite is having a casual opening reception on Sunday, November 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with light refreshments including kosher snacks, so her friends, family and clients can congratulate her for making her dream come true. To introduce the suite, By Maricel is offering a special during the month of November. With any chemical process—color or straightening—add a free haircut or blow out.
By Maricel feels distinct from the rest of the salon while adhering to its high standards. “I want clients to walk in to something different, a transformation from the rest of the salon, and feel like they are in a separate entity,” she said.
The suite was designed by Tara Puntasecca of Design Therapy New Jersey. The women had met at the gym where both belonged. Maricel loved the designs she saw on Tara’s Instagram pages and reached out to her for help in designing her space. “I was excited to be working with another female entrepreneur and I thought it would be a good collaboration,” said Tara. “I got to know her, and what she wanted the client experience to be. We had a relatively small space to work with. In design, a successful room mixes materials. Sheetrock and wallpaper feel flat. And there are no windows. Maricel likes a rustic look so I suggested making one whole wall filled with greenery, to bring the outside in, and to contrast with the rest of the salon. The client sits against the wall, facing a large mirror that extends the greenery and gives the room an airy feel.”
“Tara nailed it,” said Maricel. “Elie came in and said we did an amazing job. He was really proud of what we did.”
Maricel and Elie go back a long way. They first worked together at a salon in Paramus, and stayed in touch after Elie left. When Maricel began to feel that she wanted to elevate her work, and be in a more sophisticated environment, she reached out to Elie for advice. She came on board when he opened his salon at Riverside. A hairdresser is always learning, and she has enjoyed working for and learning from him. He taught her how to cut and style wigs—and she learned a lot about the Orthodox community from Elie’s many observant clients.
Maricel had always dreamed of having her own salon, but didn’t want to manage a large operation. She and Elie had looked for a space with suites but booth rentals were not allowed in Bergen County. The ones they found were in New York state or parts of New Jersey that were too far for their clients. Then the pandemic hit. “I reached out to clients and did some work at people’s homes,” said Maricel. “I began to feel I could do more on my own.” At that time, Bergen County ended the prohibition of rental suites at hair salons. Before Maricel accepted another offer, Elie offered to lease her the VIP room at the salon. The deal was sealed.
Maricel’s many years of education and experience have given her the ability to work with clients of all ages and preferences. “I love intertwining old school with new school techniques,” she said. “You can take a classic bob or layer cut and change them into something new. Same with color. Younger women want balayage, a more natural look for hair (intermittent highlights) that appears as though the sun is hitting it. Older women may prefer simple, shiny one-process color.”
Make an appointment by calling or texting 201-962-0091 and follow @bymaricel on Instagram.