Apology for the break!

Before I continue with my story & bring it up to date, I must apologise for not having had the next part of my biography ready, but I’m sure, as anybody who has tried to put their thoughts down in writing, you’ve got to be in the mood to try to express yourself. My writing mojo seems to have just come back & I hope you find the rest of the story interesting & in some instances, helpful.

Around the middle of 1995 we were approached by a company, Bass-Charrington, who wanted to open a bar/ restaurant at our School premises in Dean Street, Soho. Negotiations went on for some months, & eventually we reached an agreement that satisfied all parties. In fact, the commercial property agent that we used had advised that the sum of money on the table was about as good as it got. We had to support the application for change of use to bar/restaurant & quite frankly it was very time-consuming (& boring). In a moment of sheer genius, actually I was sitting in the Soho traffic at the time, I called the agent to see where we were. After a few minutes it hit me! Offer the agent a further commission based on his ability to raise the bid above the level that was on the table. It’s amazing what a little bit more of a financial incentive can do. The agent reacted very quickly, & before we knew it, the deal was done.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that it was the best deal in the world, but I was always taught that a good deal should leave both parties slightly dissatisfied. Think about it; if one side leaves the table rubbing their hands & the other side are grumbling, then it can’t be that great a deal.

Anyway, we now needed to find new premises that would be large enough to house the school & our head office. We also needed stock rooms, student areas etc. Quite a lot of space. We had to look outside of Soho because of the rising levels of rent & the advent of the bar/ restaurant boom. Our advisors suggested we looked in Noho, the area to the North of Oxford Street which was traditionally the rag-trade district of Central London.

Luckily for us, the showrooms & manufacturing spaces were severely affected by all the emerging markets in places like Turkey, Eastern Europe & South & East Asia. There was an awful lot of almost derelict space available & we managed to pick up a new lease on a big site on the corner of Eastcastle & Wells Street. The basement was flooded & the whole of the premises needed gutting.

We set ourselves a budget which was more than covered by the pay-out from Bass-Charrington. Unfortunately, & you know what’s coming next, the budget was exceeded by at least 50%. I bet those of you who have been involved with building & refurbishment works know the story! We were made to “tank” the basement to stop the rising water. That cost £40,000-00 & we found out some time later that the only reason the basement was flooded was as a result of a burst water main in the adjacent road. So much for the professionals that we look to for advice!

As organised as we thought we were, sods law always comes into the equation. By the time we actually moved from the Soho premises, building & fitting-out works were still being done at the new location. We moved in with the shop-fitters still getting in every ones way & my office was in a stockroom with a tiny table, no chair, a telephone & a fax machine. Not the best way to start, but we had no choice if we wanted continuity of the training programme we offered to our trainees.

At the same time I was approached by a businessman from Saudia Arabia, yes, Saudia Arabia, who wanted to open a training School in Jeddah. Imagine this; me operating from a cupboard in the wall & this gentleman wants to use our name & curriculum to open a school in a place that no man can ever be seen in, especially a Jewish man! Absolutely true!

We organised a contract, translation of the curriculum into Arabic & for a very healthy licence fee Alan d & the Alwasemah School of Hairdressing was born. We trained his wife, an ultra orthodox lady, for some weeks in London, arranged a prayer room for her & as a final boost to my ego, this most charming lady gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever had. To quote: “My Jewish brother,I would rather shake your hand than the hand of my brother-in-law”. This arrangement was in place for 2 or 3 years but eventually they disappeared off the radar. So ended our rather brief sojourn into the rather mysterious Arab world!

Once we got organised at the new location we turned our attention to other things, namely re-locating our flagship salon in Regent Street, the place I had been associated with for some 35+ years.