Michael Flowers, who styled Michelle Obama’s hair from the time she was 18 up to and including the day of her husband’s inauguration, is putting his salon, Van Cleef Hair Studio, up for sale. Flowers and his partner, Daryl Wells, who also runs the studio (at 56 West Huron Street), want to retire to Costa Rica, where they own land, Wells says. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” says Flowers, who professionally goes by the name Rahni. “It’s time to give the younger people a chance.”
This is not strictly a real-estate listing; the entire business is for sale, including its 22 employees (12 of them hair stylists), all its equipment, the former church (built around 1912) that houses the salon, and its impressive client list. In addition to Obama, the salon’s clients have included the former U.S. senator Carol Moseley-Braun, WGN-TV’s Allison Payne, and other prominent African American women. For the president’s inauguration, Flowers and his staff also worked on the Obamas’ two daughters and Marian Robinson, the First Lady’s mother.
According to Mitch Serrano, the Baird & Warner’s agent handling the sale, the business has an asking price of $3.5 million. Flowers says he has groomed several of the salon’s current stylists—including the women known professionally as Evvy, Venita, and Danielle—to succeed him. That means the buyer might turn out to be only an investor rather than a stylist. “But we hope it’s somebody who wants to take what we’ve made to a new level,” Flowers says.
While the salon occupies the address’s main floor and spa services take up the second floor, the basement is available for expansion, notes Flowers, who set up shop in the building 23 years ago. The place had previously housed a photographer’s studio and a night club, though it was originally home to Carter Memorial Presbyterian Church, an Assyrian congregation spun off from Fourth Presbyterian Church on North Michigan Avenue. Flowers says that he named the studio after a Van Cleef & Arpels item he liked. The salon name is part of the sales package.
Van Cleef Hair Studio had previously been listed for sale with another agent, who had been soft-pedaling the place at Flowers’s request. “I didn’t want to create a panic,” he says. “[I didn’t want to] have my customers see a big for-sale banner on the front of the building and think we were in some desperate situation.” Now that he has let the salon’s clients know of the succession plan, “there’s no problem,” Flowers says.