by RONA MANN

Romeo Valentino

We’re all in a rush these days.

We drive too fast, we gulp our food on the run, we acquire things as quickly as possible with just a click of a key, an order barked through microphones at fast food restaurants, and by doing our banking via mobile app or ATM. We call it “convenience;” and in most cases, it is. But sometimes it pays to not take shortcuts, to just slow down for awhile, sit back, unwind, relax, breathe. Time to make time for Echo.

When Stephanie Huffman first opened Echo Salon some 17 years ago on Whitfield Street in downtown Guilford, she had little idea that her reputation and sheer artistry would grow to such a degree that clients would look upon their time at Echo not as an appointment, but as a relaxing escape from their daily activities and obligations.

As the business flourished, so did Huffman’s vision of what Echo could be. The original salon was large – too large – and Stephanie felt her salon should be revamped to reflect a warmth and intimacy in both size and service. So four years ago, the salon moved around the corner to Water Street, to a smaller space that had previously housed a flower shop. It took work, a lot of work, but Stephanie Huffman is the kind of woman who has a lot of friends, all of whom were willing to jump in and help with the transformation. It took months, but finally the doors were thrown wide open on the new Echo Salon, taking much of Guilford and the surrounding shoreline by storm.

“I have two very good friends who are artists,” Huffman said with obvious pride. “There’s Sylvia Fuller from California and Christine Wallner, who lives right here in Guilford. Working together, we developed a decoration featuring Venetian plaster textured walls that are painted with eco-friendly all-natural clay paint, which serves to absorb any odors in the air.”

The walls of the bathroom are finished in recycled stained glass incorporating soy resin; and although the unique ceiling treatment appears to be squares fashioned from tin, it is in reality a kind of plastic. The dominant salon wall bears an exquisite rendering of a woman painted in soft hues, while the front windows are formed from etched glass that had originally served as nineteenth century doors. There are subtle, soft artistic touches and LED lighting throughout, creating an ambiance that gives the feel of being in a small, stylish gallery rather than a hair salon.

“This is exactly what I wanted,” Huffman states proudly. “I wanted more of a small boutique feel where customers can enjoy coming. We love to cater to our clients.” That catering usually means a little wine and cheese served during evening appointments to help the person in the stylist’s chair slow down, unwind, and truly enjoy the exceptional care and personal attention their hair deserves and is about to receive.

All of this has no doubt contributed to the ongoing adulation and kudos from Echo’s clientele and is a good part of the reason they have been voted Best of New Haven in the Advocate’s Readers’ Poll every year since 2009. “It means so much because it’s not voted on by some panel or a newspaper; it’s voted on by our actual clients.”

All of Stephanie Huffman’s stylists participate in ongoing higher education courses and have attended workshops and classes from New York to California. Additionally, Stephanie, who proudly wears the moniker of Artistic Director at Echo, is a Redken certified colorist, completing a rigorous training program to achieve the prestigious distinction.

Echo is strictly hair. No massage services, no nails, nothing except what they love to do and do better than almost anyone else. They don’t skimp on products either, featuring Kerastase, a French luxury haircare brand headquartered in Paris. Well known throughout Europe and the Far East, Kerastase hair masks, conditioning, scalp treatments, and shampoos are exclusively distributed through high-end hair salons. In the shoreline area, that exclusivity starts and ends at Echo.

Also a mainstay at the salon, and usually found napping in the afternoon sun, is Romeo Valentino, a charming 16 week old white English Bulldog puppy. Although he is most definitely Huffman’s “baby,” Romeo is the pride and joy of the entire salon, happily greeting each client without being intrusive, but sticking around long enough for a much-desired belly rub. Stephanie’s purposeful choice of the dog’s names is telling as both are synonymous with being passionate lovers; and it is apparent that this pooch knows how to “romance” the clientele who adore him.

A resident of Guilford since age 11, Huffman appreciates the sense of community Guilford affords both residents and business owners and enjoys participating in local events. “We do a lot of Cut-a-Thons; in fact we just participated in one for the Killingworth Refugee Resettlement Coalition Group.”

Although Stephanie Huffman did not have anything specific in mind when she named her salon “Echo” seventeen years ago, it has grown into its name. “An echo is a reverberation of good going out and good coming back,” the stylist said with a knowing smile. Huffman very much enjoys the fact that Echo is small, enabling her stylists to offer more personal attention. So her vision continues to reverberate creating a quiet, peaceful place with no drama, no attitude, just positive energy, beautiful art adorning the walls and counters, and the echo of an enchanting little puppy snoring happily, just waiting to fall in love the next time the door opens.

Echo Salon is located at 23 Water Street, just off the Green in Guilford. (203) 458-ECHO (3246)

Visit them on the web at: www.echoasalon.com

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