By Brandon Young
What do you do when your hair salon meets café meets art gallery is a local success? If you’re Fred Connors, you take it to the the Big City.
“Anyone who’s involved in any creative industry probably dreams of doing what they do in a city like New York,” says Connors, owner of FRED. “I’ve been travelling to New York City very regularly throughout my entire adult life and I’ve always wanted to be part of the scene there.”
FRED is already up and running on the corner of Agricola and North street. As soon as you enter you can feel the vibes of a trendy metropolitan hotspot. Contemporary furniture, minimal design, and ambient music all come together to create a sense of place that is refined, cool, yet cozy. To the right, furniture for purchase; the middle features a café that serves up espresso beverages in shiny metallic cups, and to the left is the hair salon where Connors is finishing up with one of his many clients.
Weaving a dream
Despite his exuberant personality and big city dreams, the 48-year-old entrepreneur was born in Middleton, Nova Scotia, to a military family that lived in a few cities across Canada, but he says that he was mainly raised in Dartmouth. Since graduating from Dartmouth High, Connors has been devoting his life to becoming a success.
“I’ve always been one of those people who is obsessed with learning, having, achieving, and experiencing more today than what I had yesterday,” explains Connors. “That has been my operating style my whole life.”
And what a life it’s been. Connors’ résumé includes work as a hairstylist, make-up artist, makeover expert, self-esteem coach and much more. A good part of his working life has been spent in New York City, which makes his expansion into The Big Apple seem like a natural progression.
“I realized there is an opportunity for me there to be as great as what I am here,” says Connors. “I need to be in a community where there are 12 million people instead of 20,000.”
No lost hair here
When asked about how he’s planning to deal with the day-to-day pressure of owning a trendy Manhattan business, Connors shrugs it off.
“I was shooting a television show all over the country and running a business full-time, and nobody noticed,” he says. “I’m able to handle a high level of busy-ness. I don’t feel that work provides me with stress because I absolutely love everything that I do.”
The right treatment
In 2012, Connors ran for mayor of Halifax. Although he didn’t win the election, he says that what he’s best at is people, something that he feels will make his New York City spot stand out when it hits the scene.
“There are a lot of people who deliver skill and talent – the expected level of customer service,” says Connors, referring to other competing salons’ service. “No one has ever delivered hospitality.”
“Everyone has value. You’re not just a customer, you’re a somebody,” he says. “The way we do business here is not just about delivering service, but about building relationships. Being successful isn’t just about having the edgiest or coolest spot, it’s about being able to differentiate yourself on every level from anybody else.”
Connors feels that the success of his Lower East Side location is inevitable.
“When it is a success – if is not part of my vocabulary,” says Connors. “My goal is to be able to take all of the expertise that I have developed both inside and outside of the beauty industry and share it with people on a much bigger scale.”
You better work
An advocate for a strong work ethic, Connors says that he hopes that he can be an inspiration for up and coming entrepreneurs from Halifax. Giving examples such as Ellen Page and Sidney Crosby, he touches on the international success of Nova Scotians who are “awesome at what they do.”
“Being successful really is about committing yourself to being the best you can possibly be,” says Connors. “I hate people who say ‘oh that’s good for Halifax,’ I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with that. If it’s good enough to be successful in the world, then it’s good enough for Halifax. When we see that happen it opens doors for other people to see themselves as successful in their community and the world.”
True to his roots
However, it’s clear that no matter how big he makes it in America, Connors knows where his roots lie.
“I look at the way people live in a city like New York,” he says. “They live in tiny apartments, they can’t take a stroll on the beach, they don’t have the flexibility to have joy and leisure in their lives the way that it is possible here.
“The thing that keeps me grounded is the fact that I have a home that I love; I actually have two of them, I have a family that I absolutely adore, I have friends that uplift and empower me … I will not have any of that in New York City. I will have a hair salon, a busy schedule, lots of meetings, and a very small apartment. The thing that will keep me grounded is I have a life here that I love, and when you have a life that you love, what more can you ask for?”