For over 30 years, C Melini making women feel beautiful in Ocean city

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Submitted / From left, Carlo Melini, owner; Mary Van Trieste, manager; Kathleen Melini, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and Ocean City Chamber of Commerce President Michele Gillian, cut the ribbon at C Melini in Ocean City to signify its reopening after renovations last year. Submitted / From left, Carlo Melini, owner; Mary Van Trieste, manager; Kathleen Melini, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and Ocean City Chamber of Commerce President Michele Gillian, cut the ribbon at C Melini in Ocean City to signify its reopening after renovations last year.

OCEAN CITY — For more than 50 years, Carlo Melini has been in the beauty business, the past 33 with his own salon, C Melini.       

“I don’t know where the years went,” said Melini, who, at 70, still enjoys going to work every day. “I started the value-priced, quality hair care, no-appointment-necessary concept in Ocean City in 1981.”

There was such a demand in the shore area that after a couple years, Melini expanded to Northfield. As the years went by, he opened salons in Rio Grande, Ocean View, Linwood, Somers Point, Cape May Court House and Egg Harbor Township.

For the first 15 or so years, C Melini had the market cornered. But little by little, salons began to copy his concept, he said.

Today, there are three C Melini salons: Melini owns the Ocean City shop, his son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Lynda Melini, own the Ocean View shop, and his bookkeeper, Pat Likens, and former manager, Jill Garbutt, operate the C. Melini in Somers Point.

For Melini, being in the beauty business is a dream come true, he said, but it didn’t turn out exactly as he had planned.

“As a kid, every time my mother took me for a haircut, I was mesmerized by how guys would walk in looking so scruffy and how my barber would work his magic with the clipper, comb, scissors and razor and transform them into Carey Grant,” Melini said.

When he finished high school in 1960, the only thing he had an interest in was becoming a barber, he said.

“Case closed right?” he said. “Not so fast. I grew up in a generation when kids didn’t make their own decisions. Well, at least not in our family.”

Becoming a barber, he said, did not pass muster with his uncle. 

“Whenever anyone in our family was about to make any major decision you went to Uncle Nello,” he said. “If he thought it was good, you did it. If not, you didn’t. So one Sunday morning, my father took me to me to see him to settle my fate.”

It was like a scene from the Godfather, Melini said.

“The only difference was that he was in the hatchery business not olive oil,” he said. “We walk in and my Aunt Regina greets us in the kitchen walks us into the living room where one of my older cousins was also there for advice.

“She asks us if we want some coffee and Italian pudding and my uncle says, ‘Don’t ask, just bring it,’ as he sits in his chair with his red silk robe. She does and leaves the room.” The moment of truth had come, as Melini’s father said, “He wants to be a barber.”

“Uncle Nello says ‘no’ as quickly as if my father had said he wants to jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge,” Melini laughed, but his uncle had a reason. “A man goes to a barber and spends a dollar. Remember this is 1960. A woman goes to the beauty parlor – that’s what they were called in the ’60s – and she spends eight or $10.”

A beauty parlor, he said, would be much more lucrative.

“Someone he knew in the business, who didn’t have two nickels to rub together, now has a house here and one at the shore and drives a Cadillac. He said if that’s what you like, take up beauty culture,” Melini said. “He made the right decision for me. He was a man of incredible vision.”

It hasn’t always been easy, Melini said. There was a brief moment after Hurricane Sandy when Melini thought his business days were over.

“It was a little tough going,” he said. “We had 3 feet of water in the Ocean City location, it was unbelievable. I never thought it could happen. We had survived floods and hurricanes, and never had water in the shop.

“Luckily, a friend of mine helped and we got the shop up and running in a week,” he said.

Then, after a few months of planning, the business closed again for nearly three weeks for renovations.

“We had to completely renovate the entire salon. At one point, we were actually down to dirt floors. The upside is we were able to make all the changes we could never do while we were open,” Melini said.

He started with a ceramic tile that resembles wood for the floors. Varying tones of beige on the walls complement the black marble furniture.

“My wife, Kathleen, is a really good decorator, and with the help of the staff, made the place look phenomenal,” he said. “Along with the hair care products, Kathleen also added a beautiful line of jewelry, handbags and scarves that are clients really love.”

Melini said he takes great pride in what he created over the years.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of the business was our ability to take young people into our training program and see them develop into accomplished stylists - something that will benefit them the rest of their lives,” he said.

His daughter-in-law, Lynda Cooper Melini, is a designer stylist who caught his son’s eye at the Ocean View shop.

“She’s been there for 20 years,” he said. “They got married and they have two wonderful boys.”

A third generation of the family continues the tradition as Lynda Melini’s neice, Casey Briney, 24, is a stylist at the Ocean View salon.

Melini said timing helped him in developing the business.

“When we first started, I was able to secure some key locations I could never do today,” he said. “The national chains were not interested in the shore area. Thirty years ago the shopping centers wanted us because we had a good track record. Not anymore. They all want national chains.

“It was really exciting to take an empty space, design the salon, staff the salon and see it develop into a successful business. I thank God, because we were blessed with some really great staff over the years, along with a dedicated clientele, some of whom have been with us since we opened. We could not have done it without them.”

“It’s been a great ride,” he said.

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