PALM CITY -- Twenty-six years ago, a young couple from New Jersey decided to launch out on their own in new territory in order to find their own hair-styling niche in the world, ultimately founding Michael Leonard’s Salon in Palm City. More than 5,000 Treasure Coast residents have reaped the benefits ever since, enjoying an extensive menu of salon services ranging from manicures and pedicures to waxing services, facial massages, AVEDA makeovers and, of course, cutting-edge hair design.
The dream actually began in 1986 when the former Kimberly Miele wandered into DePasquale Colour and Design Salon in Fair Lawn, N.J. and met the love of her life, Michael Izzolo, who had started there shortly after graduating from the Artistic Academy of Hair Design that same year. The two eventually married and in 1992 followed Ms. Izzolo’s parents down to Martin County after she earned a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing with a concentration in the cosmetic, fragrance and toiletry industry. That same year they inaugurated Michael Leonard’s Salon, whose namesake says he never originally planned on making a name for himself in the hairstyling industry.
“Believe it or not I started in the sporting goods industry working as a buyer,” he said. “A good friend of mine owned a barber shop in a nearby town and needed some help on weekends at his front desk so I decided to help him out. Watching him work and interact with people, not having to wear a suit every day, really intrigued me. During those days I watched him work and saw his talent and how much he enjoyed it so I decided to try cosmetology school.”
Mr. Izzolo spent six years under the watchful eye of his mentor Carmen DePasquale before his desire to strike out on his own and his wife’s goal to be closer to her family in Florida prompted a new direction for the couple.
“The truth be told, I thought we would have better luck bringing our work ethic and education down to Florida than trying to compete in the rat race of New York and New Jersey,” he admitted.
His hunch proved to be right. What began as a newlywed operation 25 years ago with six stylist stations and one nail technician has mushroomed to 15 employees with a variety of specializations over the ensuing years. In 2007, they built a new, state-of-the-art salon boasting 13 stylist stations, a color processing bar/area and a nail department, as well as private treatment rooms. Their success has not gone unnoticed. In 2011, the industry trade magazine Salon Today named Michael Leonard’s its Salon of the Year. Ms. Izzolo herself also has a long history in the beauty and fashion industries, even before she graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
“When I was a teenager, I worked not only behind the counter for Christian Dior at Bloomingdales, but I also as a freelance makeup artist,” she said. “I would do photo shoots with NYC fashion photographers, weddings and a local TV show. My experience as a professional was credible, but many years later after moving to Florida, I did receive my cosmetology license.”
Today Ms. Izzolo manages and oversees the retail operations of the salon. She said the most rewarding part of her career is the creation of long-term relationships with both clients and employees she considers family, an atmosphere she strives to maintain at the salon.
“We laugh together all the time,” Ms. Izzolo said. “We celebrate marriages, births and successes and sometimes mourn losses. Our team is an extension of our own family, and we together are very family oriented. Some of our staff has been with us for almost as long as we have been here.”
Her husband added that the years together have cemented the professional work ethic of the group.
“We can all learn from each other and help one another grow and succeed because that’s what a team does,” Mr. Izzolo said. “Together, we make up the best team of stylists on the Treasure Coast.”
In addition to professional makeup services, Michael Leonard’s offers an array of skin care services, therapies and facials. The salon can even be reserved after hours for spa-themed parties to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, wedding parties or baby showers.
Male patrons are not overlooked here either. Both men and women are welcome at the salon’s contemporary and relaxing Unisex Nail Salon, where they can indulge in an exfoliating scrub and a massage before either a manicures or pedicure. Michael Leonard’s hair stylists are trained in the latest hair fashion trends for both men and women, so male customers can also expect to turn heads upon leaving the salon.
Ever on the cusp of improvement and self betterment, the Izzolos decided four years ago to join forces with the Minnesota-based Aveda Corporation, a manufacture of natural skin- and hair-care products made from pure flower and plant essences. Michael Leonard’s staff and its owners are proud to be aligned with the company founded by Horst Rechelbacher and now owned by Estée Lauder Companies.
“With Aveda, there is constant training and education as well as an even more enhanced awareness of the latest hair care advances and styles,” Mr. Izzolo said.
His wife emphasized they finally found a product line they could depend on in an ever-changing industry.
“We found so many products that work well but many didn’t offer the performance that Aveda provided us,” she explained. “We decided this was a great product that we wanted to invest in, and so we embarked on a new relationship with a proven successful company.”
The salon founder who made the leap from sporting goods to hair styling said the transformation and the ensuing journey have given him a new-found passion and helped him make “long-time friends for life.”
“My wife said to me the other day that not once in 27 years of marriage have I woken up and said I did not look forward to going to work,” Mr. Izzolo said.
Michael Leonard’s Salon is located at 3371 S.W. Martin Downs Blvd. in Palm City. The salon opens at 9 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For more information, call (772) 288-4022 or visit https://michaelleonards.com.