GiGi salon owner offers free haircuts to students at his adopted school

A kid’s haircut at GiGi Aveda Salon Spa normally costs $25, but not on Aug. 27 from noon to 8 p.m. — not for students from Bolton Primary School, that is.

Bolton students will receive back-to-school haircuts at no charge that day, thanks to owner Johnny Hoang and his deep connection with the community he has adopted as his own.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Brooklynn Oldroyd, 8, receives a haircut and style from GiGi owner Johnny Hoang on Aug. 4.A resident of Southwest Portland, Hoang owns two other GiGi salons, one in downtown Portland and the other at Washington Square, in partnership with family members. The West Linn salon, however, is all his own.

“There’s different clientele here,” he said. “In West Linn everything is family-oriented. I love that. I love this area. I feel there’s just something connected here.”

Hoang’s connection to the Bolton community started as a business connection. His salon is located in West Linn Central Village, about three blocks from the school.

“I have a client, Kelley Jones,” Hoang said. “I did her hair (at the downtown location) for eight, 10 years.”

Jones, a teacher at Bolton, was delighted to hear that Hoang would be opening a salon down the street from where she works.

“From that day on,” Hoang said, “she refers all her friends here.”

After he bought the salon, Hoang scheduled a remodel at the location in 2011. He cleared out a lot of the old equipment and fixtures in preparation, auctioned off the items and donated the money to Bolton. The money, about $650, went toward the school’s new garden. That was the start of a tradition of giving to Bolton. The next step was more personal: A teacher at Bolton told him about a girl, age 9, whose mother had recently passed away. The girl’s father was struggling with the day-to-day details of family life, like hair care.

“She had the most sensitive scalp ever,” Hoang recalled. “No one can touch her hair, and I said, ‘Bring her in.’ It really reminded me of my own story.”

Born in Vietnam, Hoang was raised by his mother. His father, a South Vietnamese soldier, was held as a prisoner of war and Hoang never knew him as a child.

“Nobody cared about kids’ hair. When you don’t have food to eat, no one cares about hair,” Hoang said. Now, he says, “I do whatever I can to help kids out.”

Hoang came to the United States with his parents in 1994, when he was 19 years old.

“The U.S. government had a program to sponsor immigrants,” Hoang said. “We did a lot of paperwork so we could legally move to the U.S. We had to start all over again. Food, culture, English, it’s really hard for the first five years.”

Hoang finished high school for the second time, this time in the United States, enrolled in college and attended for three years, studying computers and offering hair care as a side job.

“Computers didn’t work out, so I went to beauty school to get a license,” he said. “I wanted to work doing hair for people so I can talk to people and learn culture. ... I like my job a lot. I hear a different story every day.”

Now a father himself, Hoang has no doubts about where his daughter will go when she is old enough to enroll in school.

“I plan to have her go to Bolton,” he said. “I love this area.” Although his daughter is only 5 months old, Hoang is eager to make her a part of the Bolton community.

“I ask Holly (Omlin-Ruback, Bolton’s principal), ‘When can she come here?’ ”

With Bolton offering parent-and-child programs for little ones as young as 12 months, Hoang won’t have long to wait. “I like all the people working there,” Hoang said. “They have big hearts. Holly always takes care of the kids.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Brooklynn Oldroyd is all smiles after receiving a haircut from GiGi owner Johnny Hoang on Aug. 4.One Bolton student, 8-year-old Brooklynn, couldn’t wait to receive her haircut. She had an appointment with Hoang on Aug. 6, coming in with her mother, Jen Oldroyd, who is also a client of Hoang’s.

“He gives a killer haircut,” Oldroyd said. “He has a heart of gold, but he gives a killer haircut.”

Brooklynn was all smiles throughout her appointment, enjoying a shampoo, cut and curl in GiGi’s elegant atmosphere.

“She got too big for the kiddie places,” Oldroyd said of her daughter. “She wanted to come to a big girl salon. ... It makes them feel grown up, getting their hair cut here.”

GiGi Salon is located at 22000 Willamette Drive in West Linn. A limited number of appointments for free haircuts are still available for Bolton students on Aug. 27. Call 503-655-2433 to make an appointment, and be sure to mention that the haircut is for a Bolton student. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

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