MyDomain Partners: Niki Walker and Niki Walker Salon

Community, Paramount / Sep 25, 2014

Residents at The Paramount become members of the MyDomain program, a suite of services and amenities that includes an extensive family of local businesses offering specials and incentives to residents. With this series, you’ll learn a bit more about what makes our MyDomain partners so special. This week, Niki Walker Salon.

 

New Orleans-native Niki Walker [pictured above] opened Niki Walker Salon in 2012, armed with years of experience and a fierce entrepreneurial spirit. Niki was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss how she ended up in the CBD and what she loves most about the neighborhood.

 

Welcome to Niki Walker Salon!

Welcome to Niki Walker Salon!

 

How did you end up opening a salon?

I was doing hair for about eight years, working behind the chair for different salons. I decided to go back to school and become an educator, a teacher. I taught at the Aveda Institute for three years, and I also became Creative Director of a salon on Baronne called Buzz – I lived right across the street. I started running it, then a year later Katrina hit. I lost the salon, I lost my house, and I moved to Destrehan [Louisiana].

After Katrina, I realized that I was training all of these students, making them badass hairdressers, and then they were going to work for other people. I felt like I knew how to open a salon and I knew how to train people, so why not just do it? I couldn’t really find any other salon that [incorporated] all of the ideas that I had – full of art, love of music, but then still having the standards of something like the Ritz-Carlton when I worked there.

I opened my first salon in Destrehan; I was there for five years, but the whole time I wanted to come back [to downtown New Orleans]. I love Destrehan for the schools for my kids [Niki still lives there with her family and commutes daily], but I just missed being here. When we decided to move back to New Orleans, I first opened up on Magazine Street Uptown for about a month. I planned on having both locations, Uptown and in Destrehan, but every day I thought, “I wanna go back home!” Then we thought, what if we closed Destrehan and just opened one big salon downtown? That’s how this happened.

The neighborhood has changed so much from when I was here ten years ago, more than I could have ever imagined. It was so hard before, it was a ghost town. And now you see all of the people walking around. It’s amazing.

 

An example of the art that adorns the space.

Art by Jeremy Hebert.

 

What was the biggest reason for choosing this spot downtown?

Well we came and looked at the space – it was late one night, around 11:00, and we drove out here. It was after a basketball game or something so people were roaming all over. We came back the next day, during the day, and realized that Rouses had opened up, and that right outside the back door was the Superdome. We sat outside here and felt like we were seeing our clientele just walking by!

We started doing some research and saw what was coming. It had a whole new name, South Market District, and I just thought, “We have to be a part of this.” Rouses opened in Fall 2011, and five months later we opened in February 2012.

 

What’s your favorite thing about the neighborhood now?

I love going into places around here – CellarDoor, Café 821, Rouses – and it’s like Cheers! Everybody knows your name. And oh I love the energy in the CBD. It’s just so different.

 

Niki's reflection shown in the mirror of the soothing hair washing station.

Niki’s reflection shown in the mirror of the hair washing station.

 

What inspires you?

New energy. When new clients come in, or new people that aren’t from here. They get so excited, and it gets us talking. They ask, “What’s good around here to eat?” They talk about the music, Wednesdays at the Square. When that was happening, people were surprised that it was free. I was just like, “Yeah, it’s what we do!” That inspires me. Seeing people get excited about stuff that we kind of take for granted.

 

How do you see the future growth of the neighborhood?

Well I see it growing every day. Every day we have somebody call and say that they just moved here. A lot of young professionals. It’s great for small businesses. And the people moving here are opening up businesses, too. I had a couple of people in here last week that were in the restaurant industry and asking what was needed around here. I think that’s awesome.

 

Art 1

More pieces from Niki’s art collection. Watercolor by Nathan Gokturk.

 

Visit Niki Walker Salon in-person at 625 Baronne Street, or online via their website or Facebook page. Thanks to Niki for chatting with us!

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