It was a challenge to speak to Rukiye Yucel for more than five minutes at a time, Imaj Salon was full of women in various stages of beauty care and Rukiye was needed in ten places at once. As soon as I heard “Okay my dear”, I knew she had concluded her interaction with a client and would be available to talk again to me. Imaj Salon has occupied the Southeast corner of Connecticut Avenue since 2006 and is a beloved institution in Cleveland Park Main Street. Rukiye and her business partner selected this location due to its proximity to their former salon. But Rukiye (pronounced “Roo-Key”) believes it was destiny for her to be here.
Twenty years ago, Rukiye was living in her home country of Turkey with no plans to ever leave. Employed as a receptionist in the salon where her brother was a hairdresser, she transitioned to doing manicures, fell in love with and married a colleague. Her husband, a successful hairdresser, was recruited by an American Salon owner to leave his home in Turkey and work for him in Washington, D.C. It took her three months of official classes to learn the language of her adopted country in addition to becoming fully immersed in the English language. She became a business owner for the salon before she even knew how to cut, color or style hair.
Rukiye loves the friendliness and diversity of people in Cleveland Park. She believes that Cleveland Park has everything here with its mix of ages and ethnicities. Her clients include many regulars from the neighborhood as well as politicians, ambassadors and even Donald Rumsfeld when he was alive. The strangest request she’s ever received is from a client in her previous salon who wanted her hair dyed the same bright green color as her pet parrot.
Rukiye does not consider herself to be a mean boss and instead has strived to create a community of mutual respect. She usually cooks her own lunch to share with her employees. Her only wish is that all of her clients offered hairdressers the same respect as they do for doctors or lawyers. Changing an appointment multiple times is time consuming and chaotic for this small salon. Customers have even tried to haggle over the cost of their services. However this is a very small percentage of her clientele as the majority of her regulars are extremely kind and considerate. Although two decades ago, Rukiye could not have imagined owning her own salon in Washington, D.C. she is satisfied that this is her life.
Visit Imaj Salon at 3301 Connecticut Ave NW. A full list of services and more info can be found on their website, ImajSalon.com!