Frankly, as I was entering the David Witchell Salon & Spa in Peddler’s Village, I was nervous. The idea of meeting David J. Witchell, the legendary hair & spa Prince of Bucks County, made my hair stand on end. For the renowned style and elegance expert, it could be painful to face a guy with messy hair, far from stylish clothes and an obvious total lack of knowledge of his industry. The high end salon was unfamiliar terrain for me. Luckily, as I sat at the reception, the strong scent of lavender, the chatter of the receptionists taking calls, making appointments, apologizing for the long wait and the bursts of women laughing in the other rooms, all blended into a soothing ambiance, assuring me that I would be safe in this strange but tranquil place. I quickly noticed that each customer that stepped out from treatment shared the same relaxed, goofy smile and as they walked past me, I was intoxicated by the distinct fragrance of beautiful, pampered women. There are worse places to feel out of your element.
Then a friendly male voice brought me back to earth. “Are you Dror? I’m David. It’s really nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by”.
Interviewing David, is like peeling an onion. As our meeting progressed, I gently peel off his outer layers, and expose what lies underneath the elegance and deep blue eyes, only to discover more and more layers. As soon as I dig too deep, I sense David pulling back and slipping on yet another layer, perhaps to protect some vulnerability, perhaps to add to his mystery. When he mentions supporting himself from the young age of thirteen, after his parents’ divorce, or the tragic loss of his brother James to AIDS, his voice transitions into a formal tone, as if he is reading an official statement to the press, shielding his pain. Only later in our conversation does he truly open up.
Beauty under the microscope
By the time he was fifteen, David started to work at a modeling agency in Reading, PA. “One day, the makeup artist who taught classes, didn’t show up for work” and David, confident in his stylistic touch jumped in and volunteered to teach little girls how to do makeup. As a child he dreamed of becoming a doctor or a Hollywood star, but circumstances led him on the road to a promising career in the beauty industry. What started as an easy way to earn money as a freelancer, evolved into a profession and a passion for beauty excellence. By seventeen, he received his beauty diploma and started to work in salons. By the young age of nineteen, he was already managing a salon. But David’s true passion was always for teaching. He loved working as a platform artist – a professional term for someone who goes on the road and teaches others how to do hair. He was hired by the company Redken, the well-known hair care product manufacturer, where he received advanced, scientific training including how to evaluate hair under a microscope and understand its in-depth chemistry.
Refined, timeless, classic and elegant
Later, as David turned entrepreneurial and started his own salon, educating young professionals and making a difference continued to be important to him. Instead of taking the predictable road to LA and New York, he brilliantly bet on Bucks County, PA as the place to make home and to build his business. Today, some twenty years later, David and his business partner Galina Witchell, own several Salon & Spas, clothing and gift boutiques in Newtown PA, and Peddler’s Village. David, who seems to work eight days a week, has even more initiatives up his sleeve and there are rumors about a beauty academy that he would not confirm or deny.
I look enviously at David and ask: “It seems like you nailed the $64M question every man struggles with. Can you please tell me the answer! What do women want?”
“Well, you’d be surprised to learn that 35% of our clients are men. But to answer your question – the David J Witchell woman wants effortless beauty. They may invest in their looks but they don’t want it to show that they are investing.“
Is there a Bucks County “look”?
“Yes, it’s exactly that — effortless beauty,“ David answers. “Bucks County is unique in the way that it’s close to two major metropolitan, yet feels so untouched and natural. That is reflected in the way that people carry themselves: looking good yet natural. Not showing that you are trying too hard, yet looking refined, timeless, classic and elegant.”
David J. Witchell’s Guide to Local Living
Do not to miss
Climb all the stairs to the top of the Bowman’s Hill Tower for one of the best views in the east coast
Secret place to dine
Eating at the Bar at Anton’s at The Swan in Lambertville and The Bar at Earl’s in Peddler’s Village and the porch at the Carversville Inn on a beautiful night. Three of the best kept secrets in the area.
Things to do
Ride a bike on the towpath
Things to do with your dogs
Go on a hike with your dogs in Washington Crossing Park. You’ll both appreciate it.
Swing on the rope swing and jump into the Delaware river – Look for the hidden swing on the NJ side, north of Stockton
How to dress when in New Hope?
Layers! Definitely wear layers. You never know what’s going to hit you.
I dig a little deeper and I hit David’s fighting layer. That part of him that fights back in effort to save the entire beauty industry. David is in an uphill battle to oppose the deregulation of the industry. Government officials are trying to eliminate state laws that assure quality, potentially leaving the consumers exposed to untrained workers and breaking their trust. Not knowing whom to trust is a big problem for consumers that effects the entire industry, and David, in his owned vigilant way, vows to fight lobbyists and politicians and restore consumer confidence.
Underneath the business layer there is even more – a David that gives back to the community. He sits on the board of the non-profit organization FACT (Fighting Aids Continuously Together) that provides emergency funding for people that suffer from HIV or AIDS in the region. David is also on the board of the Bucks County Playhouse a place he loves “for what it is and what it brings back to the community.”
As I gradually gain David’s trust I get a small glimpse into his inner core – his family. His blue eyes are glowing behind his glasses when he mentions his life partner, their two dogs, a step son and two grandchildren “one big happy modern family!” he exclaims. “It’s a good life; I love living in Bucks County and New Hope, we have arts, culture, nature, city within reach and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
What is your secret to success?
“There is no magic here. You need to listen to your customers; too many businesses forget this simple and important rule, being a good listener – that’s the magic.”
We said our goodbyes and I headed out from the tranquility of the salon into a beautiful spring afternoon, but it was still chilly outside. I thought to myself that next time I go out, I should probably dress with a little more elegance . . . and in layers.
For more information, visit David Witchell Salon & Spa Website.