An Insight into: Rock Men’s Salon and Wired Co.

John Padalino runs not one but two local businesses – and they are next door to each other. Rock Men’s Salon and Wired Coffee on Broadhurst Gardens. If you don’t know them already, they are a couple of the ‘hipper’ businesses here, but with a mix of typical West Hampstead customers.

What brought you West Hampstead?

The C11 bus from Brent Cross.

It was literally by accident. I had moved up to London from Devon, and was searching for a while for somewhere to set up a men’s salon. I trained at my dad’s salon in Devon, which has just celebrated it’s 55th anniversary. I ran it for a while but the pull of London was too strong.

Back in 2010 I was shopping in Brent Cross, and I randomly got on a bus to explore. The bus was a C11, and I got off at this place that had a nice vibe and looked interesting; West End Green. I wandered down West End Lane and at the bottom saw a salon called Matrix, which was empty in a parade of shops opposite the tube station. I thought that it was a pretty good site next to three stations.

Then I went in to Café Bon next door and checked online for leases available in West Hampstead. The first lease that came up was … Matrix!

I immediately called Network Rail, which was  offering a three-year lease with a six-month break clause. I could see there was the potential for redevelopment but the other local shopkeepers said there had been talk of it for 15 years and nothing had happened. So I took the risk and signed the lease.

What happened next?

Business got off to a good start but just three months later a letter arrived giving me my notice! West Hampstead Square was going to be built and our little parade of shops was going to be knocked down. It was pretty stressful having only just got the business off the ground but one of my clients, a surveyor, said, “Face it, London is evolving, it’s going to change, don’t fight it.”

By the time we moved, 18 months later, I had already found a new place round the corner for rock, in what had been the Millennium café. However, my old place was going to be empty for three months so I negotiated with Network Rail to open a pop-up coffee shop there.

John sitting between Rock and a Wired place

John sitting between Rock and a Wired place

What’s your fondest memory of the area?

Getting up at 5.30am and opening the door on that pop-up coffee shop. It opened from December 2011 until February 2012. We decided to focus on the coffee – pure and true – so we decided to work with a great roaster. Tom, my business partner’s dad, made all the furniture but you could still tell it had been a barbers; there were still mirrors on the wall.

Tom and I would start off serving coffee in the morning then pop round to Rock to cut hair! From day one people responded really positively and we got so much encouragement. So when the shop next to Rock became available, my landlady asked if wanted to take it on and the pop-up coffee shop suddenly had a permanent home. I was amazed at how things turned around from just two years earlier.

It is not just Tom and his Dad that helped, but our partners too.  It was a team effort.  Likewise now I couldn’t do it without the baristas at Wired and the other stylists at Rock.  I’m proud of them all.  Also, having a very local website like West Hampstead Life really helped too.

Wired Co. - they really know their coffee.

Wired Co. – they really know their coffee.

What has surprised you most about how West Hampstead has changed?

What has surprised me was the nice mix of customers. With the connections to the City and Canary Wharf we have customers who work in the city, but we also have guys who work in TV and sportsmen. From conservative to cutting edge – a nice mix of everyone.

Broadhurst Gardens has changed even since we arrived but the businesses offer something a bit different, from a pizza cooked in a wood burning stove, bespoke chocolates, violins, and great coffee and food in Wired.

The regulars  really encourage us to improve and change; we’ve introduced V60 and aeropress [Ed – new ways of making of coffee]. Currently, we are seeing demand for plant-based foods and are jointly developing those with our food producers.

What’s for lunch?

Normally I have a smoked turkey, avocado and harrissa sandwich and one of our chia pots for dessert. But this month being VEGANuary, I’m going more vegetarian with our carrot, courguette and hommous on rye with a flat white with cashew milk.

If I go out, I like Pham just a couple of doors down, the food is excellent. Or popping in for a drink at the Gallery.

Describe West Hampstead in three words?

Evolving, supportive and responsive.

Mobile hair & beauty provider swishes into West Hampstead

At this time of year, when it’s grey and freezing cold, any excuse to stay inside is a good one. We all indulge a little more in the convenience of just being at home – ordering a delivery from a favourite restaurant, doing a yoga class at home not the studio, or curling up on the sofa to watch a film instead of going to the cinema. And lucky for us, 2015 is set to be the year of the on-demand service – with start-ups offering everything from easy food delivery, to on-demand laundry pick-up and on-demand pet care.

One of the most exciting to come to West Hampstead is CitySwish, offering on-demand massage, beauty and hair, direct to your doorstep in as little as an hour’s notice. There’s no need to have any of the equipment or to have a large space available as CitySwish therapists can work anywhere from the kitchen table to a hallway! Book online and have someone show up with everything needed to relax, pamper, style you to perfection. And with a very simple pricing scheme (£60/hour for massage, £45/hour for beauty), CitySwish is certainly providing some competition for the high street!

While CitySwish started its operations in Kensington and Chelsea (where it has seen huge success), the idea was born in West Hampstead where Leisha Olandj, one of the co-founders, lives. Now that CitySwish has expanded its reach to include West Hampstead, it hopes to become a core West Hampstead staple. Leisha is generously offering all West Hampstead Life readers a 20% discount for any bookings made before the end of February. Book online at and use code WHLife to try it out.

Treatments: Massage, Hair, Beauty (nails, waxing, spray tan)
Where: They come to you!
Discount: Use coupon WHLife to receive a 20% discount through February.

Headmasters comes to West Hampstead

Next Friday, January 10th, another hairdresser arrives on West End Lane.

Ice cream or a haircut?

Ice cream or a haircut?

Headmasters is a chain with 65 unisex salons in the UK and Norway, and its West Hampstead branch will be at 220 West End Lane. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that these are the premises previously occupied by Chez Chantal.

It is tempting in prospective customers with an opening offer for the first two weeks.

It’ll be interesting to see how another salon fits in to an already crowded market. From a first glance at the price list, it looks like the closest local comparison is HOB, with a ladies’ cut and style starting at £42.

Will you be giving Headmasters a visit, or staying loyal to your regular stylist? Let me know below or on Twitter @ZENW6

So many salons, so few recommendations

Are there too many hairdressers in West Hampstead? I hear a resounding chorus of “yes” ringing out. An oft-heard criticism of West End Lane is the sheer number of stylists (and of course estate agents, but I’m not here to discuss them, slick though their hair may be).

Wandering the main streets of the area (West End Lane, Mill Lane, Fortune Green, Broadhurst Gardens) last weekend, I counted no fewer than 17 salons.

When I set out to produce the definitive guide to the best local women’s salons, I was therefore braced for a deluge of comment, opinion, recommendations, debate. Where would people suggest was the best place for a trim? Or a more “directional” cut and restyle? Or colour treatments? Where can you find the friendliest welcome, the most passionate and hair-savvy stylists, or the best coffee? Where’s the best place to go if you’re on a budget?

Instead, only a trickle of feedback was forthcoming (thank you to everyone who shared their recommendations, with a special mention for Heather who is the veritable whamp hair expert). And 90% of it was for the same two salons: HOB and Holistic. Barely any mention of the other places, which remain shrouded in mystery.

How to explain the surfeit of salons, given the local apathy? I asume there’s a demand for their services: most usually look busy (when I walked past on a typical Saturday, all had at least one customer and some places were positively buzzing) and of course all whampers are impeccably coiffed. So, perhaps it’s time to challenge the notion that there are too many. After all, the 17 salons encompass traditional-looking men’s barbers, trendy men’s salons, high-end unisex salons, and even a salon specialising in natural hair extensions (Helena’s Haircare on West End Lane).

As for the lack of hairdressing recommendations… do many locals get their hair cut in town (near work, perhaps?), and are the customers I see frequenting West Hampstead establishments price-sensitive souls attracted by special offers? Or are you just all jealously guarding your beauty secrets? Please use the comments below to let me know your thoughts on all matters follicular in West Hampstead.

By the way, your hair looks fabulous darling.