Ashley Gray brings edge and acceptance to Haymarket
“I never knew I could be this happy,” says Ashley Gray of Ash Salon in Haymarket. Ash, as she is affectionately known, shines when asked about her new role as business owner. But while the road towards this goal wasn’t completely smooth and her life certainly isn’t without stress, there is nothing she would change.
One of those kids who simply didn’t love high school except for the creative parts of it, Ash started a job shampooing at a salon as a teenager and fell in love. That was all it took, she says, to know what she wanted to do with her life. But it was at the prestigious Graham Webb Academy of Hair in Arlington that she “found her place.” Reveling in the education from world-class cosmetologists and aestheticians, Ash finally found the creative educational outlet she had craved. Her time here was so enjoyable, she says she didn’t want to graduate because it meant she had to move on.
Her first stylist position was at Salon Emage in Warrenton, where she worked her way from Junior Stylist to Master Stylist and eventually Artistic Director. For 14 years, she developed close client relationships and made “a million amazing memories” with her coworkers. But after going through a divorce that ended up empowering her life decisions, she realized that nothing was holding her back from pursuing her ultimate goal – to open her own salon. Her vision become clear and she began to plan how Ash Salon would unfold.
The choice in location wasn’t a difficult one to make; Ashley believed Haymarket needed the edge she brought to the field of hair and beauty. Upscale, yet unpretentious and fashion-driven are the words Ash chooses to represent the business that caters to both men and women. “A female version of a barbershop” is the look and feel she incorporated into the design. The space is modern, cozy, and inviting with wood, metal, and leather accents with pops of gold and macramé. But the diamonds are in the details. A framed photo of Twiggy, a neon pink “hello gorgeous” sign, and quirky animal coasters make the space match Ash’s unforgettable personality.
While the look of her salon was something she put a lot of time and energy into, what was most important was to assure the overall feel was warm and comfortable for everyone. One of those decisions was hiring Rocky King as her salon manager. King is a highly sought-after makeup artist who has worked at New York Fashion Week for several seasons, but you wouldn’t know it by the humble and kind manner he greets clients with at the salon. Ash Salon is a ‘safe space’ for clients, who are more like friends, to say what is on their minds and not be judged… to be able to talk about their lives while being pampered, Ash says. She even refers to herself as a‘hairapist’ because of her uncanny ability to offer easy conversation. “The vibe is so good,” she says, and clients sometimes come over just to chill on the porch of the old, former post office building right off Jefferson Street in the middle of Haymarket.
Color is Ash’s forte, as well as artistic haircuts, ‘lived in’ hair color, and creating beautiful, edgy styles using balayage, color melts, extensions, precision and texture cutting, brazilian treatments and bridal work. Her gratification from being a stylist comes from how much you can totally change someone with a look. “As artists, this is our outlet for creativity,” she says of herself and her hand-picked staff of experts in their respective fields, which includes makeup artists, eyebrow and lash artists, a massage therapist, an aesthetic nurse specialist, and an esthetician.
Her staff is what makes Ash Salon what it is, she says, and the many women and men who have graced the salon with their presence would agree. The search for stylists to add to her talented team began on social media, where she found those with strong color talent and years of experience. Each stylist has achieved Master Stylist status. But just as crucial was gauging their personalities – “nice chill personalities” to be exact – so that the group would jive well. Ash then began adding staff who offer specialty services, like eyebrow microblading and eyelash extensions. Most of the estheticians who offer these services own their own businesses but commit to time at the salon to provide the services to the clients at Ash. This “happy little family” is evident to the clients who notice and comment on the fun atmosphere. She has created an environment that her stylists have come to love and refer to as their ‘happy place.’
Ashley doesn’t simply want Ash Salon to become the place to be for all things beauty in the Town of Haymarket and surrounding communities. She stands behind her vision of being a place of acceptance for all people. In June, the salon hosted a Pride Party complete with food, drinks, and fun, and attended by Virginia Delegate Danica Roem to support the LGTBQ in our community. The event was well attended and well received, and Ash plans to host many more events in an effort to unify the town, surrounding communities, and local businesses.
The future of Ash Salon is also on the horizon. With new space available at the front of the building, plans are underway to expand into it. This will allow three more stylist chairs and a large treatment room for esthetic-based services.
Follow Ash Salon on Instagram at ash.salon, and on Facebook at @AshSalonofHaymarket, and be inspired by the beautiful transformations created by Ash and her team of experts. For more information and to discover what services would make you feel like the most gorgeous version of yourself, visit SalonAsh.com.