DOWNEY – A Downey institution of nearly four decades will be closing its doors for good this Saturday after the last lock of hair is cut and the last head of curls is blow-dried. Miguel Bardales, owner of Johnny & Co., says that Feb. 28 will be the last day of business for the well-known hair salon since he and the new landlord were unable to reach an agreement on the terms of a lease renewal.
“It is sad that I have to make the decision to close the doors to people who have been working here for so many years,” said Bardales, who has owned the business on Downey Avenue for eight years. Stylist Maria Salcedo has the longest association, 39 years, with the salon.
Other stylists with decades of work at the salon still commute to Johnny’s even though they now live elsewhere. DeDe Drotter, twenty-seven years at Johnny’s, commutes several days a week from Huntington Beach. Art Savala, 23 years, commutes from Glendale.
The salon was established by Johnny Croshaw in 1976 at 4th Street and Downey Avenue. The business moved to its present location in the 1980’s, and while the ownership has changed several times over the years, the name “Johnny’s” was retained, with hair stylists and their clients forming a community with a significant history.
“There’s a lot of legacy here,” says Barbara Grothe, who has worked at the salon for thirty-seven years. Recounting the community service that the group was known for, Grothe says that for many years salon stylists donated their time doing hair and make-up backstage for the Miss Downey Pagent. Fundraisers offering $5 haircuts were held to benefit organizations such as Meals on Wheels and ARC. And Johnny’s beauticians were known for making their services available at homeless shelters and Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.
One of the former owners of the salon was community leader Pat Gomez-Pratt, who passed away last year. Gomez-Pratt had served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Rancho Los Amigos Hospital Guild, and as a grand marshal at the annual Downey Christmas Parade.
It was Gomez-Pratt who guided the move of Johnny’s to its current location on Downey Avenue in the 1980’s and had the building remodeled. The interior décor is striking, with six-foot high, full-length mirrors at each station, and the building itself is a model for energy-efficiency. Multiple skylights bathe the entire salon in natural light during the day.
Croshaw had continued working as a stylist with the salon during this time, and says that construction work revealed the site’s earlier role in Downey’s civic history. According to Croshaw, the old building had at one time been a Constable’s office, and when the floor was dug up during the 1980’s remodel, construction workers found horseshoes and vintage bottles.
In 1996 Gomez-Pratt sold the business and building back to Croshaw. When Croshaw sold the business once more in 2004, he retained ownership of the building, all the while continuing to work there.
Last year, in 2014, Johnny himself finally left the salon that still bears his name when he sold the property itself to the owners of the Downey Pizza Company. The new owners could not be reached for comment about their plans for the building on Downey Avenue.
“It’s bittersweet,” says Croshaw, who did a tour in the Marines and tried a few other jobs such as truck driver and bartender before ending up in Downey. “The salon was the first thing I ever did in my life that I set out to do and that I did. We had a long and wonderful ride.”
Barbie Brooks, who is now an insurance agent, describes working at the salon as a clean-up girl when it first opened. She was thirteen years old. When she was sixteen, Brooks started a two-year cosmetology program under Croshaw, who was licensed to train and supervise. She was part of the salon for almost 27 years.
All but one of the nine stylists and the manicurist will be moving to other salons in the coming weeks. “It’s a hard knock for ourselves,” says Grothe.
The stylists had wanted to remain together at a new location, but there was no salon big enough to accommodate the group. Liz Hernandez, who has 35 years with Johnny’s, will be retiring.