Upper Arlington salon owner, exercise buff adds personal training space.

Throughout his 40-year career, salon owner and hairdresser Michael Azzaro has always stayed in shape. And as a regular at the gym, he often answered questions and shared his expertise.

Eventually, Azzaro became a fitness trainer and then realized he could offer both services at his Upper Arlington salon.

“I've always been active with sports and exercised regularly,” says Azzaro, who started cutting hair after injuring his knee years ago playing baseball. “I had a brainstorm to do it here. They're both very personal services. The goals are different. The motivation is different. Other than that, they are very, very similar.”

To celebrate his 40th year in business, he added a fitness area and rebranded himself as Salon by Azzaro—Redesigning Your Hair and Your Body. He hopes combining both services under one roof will allow him to keep working longer. Azzaro sees staying fit as an integral part of his personal career goals, which include staying in touch with his clients for years to come.

“I'm 61,” he says. “I really, really love what I do. I want to make sure I'm healthy enough to do this for another 20 years. Many of the people I really care about and have built relationships with—except for my wife—I only see at work and I don't want those relationships to end.”

Adding the workout space also was an opportunity to help busy clients feel good and stay healthy. He already had invited a yoga instructor/masseuse and an esthetician to work out of his space in an office building on Kenny Road.

The exciting thing about helping clients work out is that they can change their body, he says. That's different than hair. Clients can change their hair style or color, but the type of hair they have won't change, he says. On the other hand, “your body will change tremendously.”

In both cases, Azzaro works with clients one-on-one. He is the only hair stylist and trainer in his salon, so clients have his undivided attention. He does hair Mondays through Thursdays and training on Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays.

Regardless of the service, Azzaro always starts with a conversation. He asks new hair clients to tell him the “story” of their hair. He wants to know what they like and what they dislike about it. He also listens to the person's language, he says, because people often have their own definition of long or short—or even “an inch.”

“I listen,” he says. “I drain you of information about your hair. I want to help you find hair happiness. If we connect, you're coming back. You're telling your mom or your sister or your friend.”

Workouts start much the same way. Clients tell him their goals, any physical limitations and information about their health. Then he designs an exercise program for them to follow. He encourages them to take ownership of the program and work on it independently in between appointments.

Talking to clients and understanding them is one of his keys to success. “Communication is the foundation,” he says. “If we don't talk and I don't know exactly what you want, I can't serve you.”

Amanda Helwig started working out with Azzaro last year. The Gahanna resident had been a hair client for about five years. Adding the workouts was a natural next step because she knew she could work with him and had confidence in his abilities. She has lost about 25 pounds and gone down several sizes.

“Getting my hair cut was always a positive experience. I've always known he was into fitness and eating right. One day I just said, ‘Let's start training.'”

She likes working out with Azzaro because he gives her routines that she can do at home on her own time. The workouts don't require a gym or fancy equipment. His salon workout area includes a bike, weights and bands. “He makes it all easy,” Helwig says.

Azzaro, who always has relied on client referrals rather than traditional advertising, says he doesn't push his hair clients to work out with him or his workout clients to have him style their hair. “They have to ask,” he says. “They have to be the one who initiates the conversation.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is afreelance writer.