Modern Original People: Richard Calcasola

Salon industry revolutionary Richard Calcasola serves as MOP’s Cultural Advisor, an expressly created position tapping his creative and management talents, plus his industry influence. A stroll through his career accomplishments reveals why there may be no one ever-so-strongly suited for such a unique position.

Richard’s earliest years growing up in Corona, Queens made him a street-savvy kid. His parents moved the family to Long Island just as he was starting freshman year of high school. Earning instant and increasing popularity among his classmates during the next four years, he was overwhelmingly elected senior class president. As his yearbook memorialized, he won the Class Leadership accolade…but to this day, dapper as ever and always donning a stylish hat, he is still somewhat disappointed that he didn’t earn the secretly desired, best-dressed award.

Back in the 1960s, military enlistment for men turning 18 was mandatory. Following his time serving with the National Guard, Richard enrolled in beauty school, “It sounded fun, and the thought of being surrounded by beautiful women and fashion all day was an added incentive.”

An early salon job in Far Rockaway placed him as the 16th pro within a staid 15-chair salon where he was in awe of the surrounding talent. Its owner’s management techniques and intimidating tactics were another matter, leading Richard to glean an important lesson: it is hard to be creative when working in a fear-filled atmosphere.

Ever the tastemaker, Richard had his vision for operating a salon: where the environs are professional but fun…where stylists and clients communicate with appreciation and respect…where current aesthetics and décor define the working space, and à la mode looks echoed the most recent pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and the Rolling Stones comprised that era’s soundtrack.

In 1970, he opened what would be the first incarnation of Salon Maximus, its name inspired from several factors concurrently whirring in Richard’s mind: maxi skirt fashions, Circus Maximus and iconic pop artist Peter Max, whose animation for The Beatles’ movie “Yellow Submarine” made him a household name.

Much to the initial dismay of loyal clients following Richard from his first job, he quickly ditched the old-fashioned hair-dryers. His next move was to create an atmosphere of visually-explosive sex appeal, bold and in-tune with the times for his 8-person styling team. Reminiscent of his class presidency, his management style was “emotional vs. mathematical, where mentoring and caring for employees as much as for clients, was a priority, yet at times, a double-edged sword because I took my eyes off profitability and focused on growth.” He would eventually open four salons.

In just a few years, Modern Salon magazine anointed Maximus “Salon of the Year” (1980), with the tri-state area’s top-tier beauty talent wanting to work for him after seeing numerous credits in the hottest magazines and featured guest spots on television. The salon expanded its space, evolved its design and repertoire of offerings, making it the East Coast pioneer for first-of-its-kind spa services (hello oxygen facial!) and an eponymously-branded makeup line. Richard then opened Maximus’ second Long Island location. From 1985-86, he was named Intercoiffure’s North American Creative Director.

With so many of his clients enduring the hour’s drive to Long Island from New York City, Richard opened Maximus’ third outpost (Modern Salon’s 2001 Salon of the Year) in SoHo, when on a sunny late-August afternoon, Cathy Horyn popped in. No one at the salon knew she was The New York Times recently-appointed fashion critic, nor did she say anything during her visit. An oh-so-rare front-page rave review in the paper’s Sunday Styles section resulted in nearly 900 appointments booked for September. Then, not two weeks after Cathy’s story ran, 9/11 devastated America, and the salon’s downtown location was impossible to navigate as only first responders and residents were permitted access. After several years of trying to keep the space open, Richard eventually had to sell the NYC space and its furnishings to concentrate on his Long Island locations. Needless to say, it was a very difficult time for everyone.

In addition to being Long Island’s hottest salon, during the past 15 years, Maximus often served as the continuing education epicenter where Richard would host inclusive gatherings of other salon owners and beauty professionals, sharing best-practices benefiting everyone. This cultural provocateur initially believed he was retiring in 2016, but when MOP called, he was excited to share his knowledge with the sales and style professionals as the industry’s most audacious and arguably, influential innovator.

To learn more about Richard, follow him on Instagram at @RichardCalcasola and check out Richard’s latest “musings” on YouTube: