Anthony Morrison Sets Out to Make His Hermosa Hair Salon a Cut Above the Rest
- Written byTanya Monaghan
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
Had I just discovered a hidden oasis steps from one of the busiest streets of Hermosa Beach? Climbing the steps of the corner building on Aviation Boulevard, the scent of an English garden invited me forward, and I was met by fresh, beautiful spring flowers. The building itself was completely covered in green, and there was music playing on the outdoor speakers as happy plants seemed to cascade down every surface. I had arrived at The Londoner salon—a place more aptly described as an experience, created by the amazing Anthony Morrison.
I was greeted by a tall, handsome man with just about the brightest smile I had ever seen. His charming British accent made him even more fabulous. Anthony introduced himself and welcomed me into his hair salon. He ushered me through another door into an outdoor courtyard that instantly felt like some sort of magical sanctuary. I could feel the moisture on my skin from all the plants as butterflies danced about and birds chirped. Anthony created more than a space to get your hair done; he has created a dream.
His fascination with hair began at a very young age. In fact, he says he knew he was going to be a hairdresser from the age of 8. But that joy was preceded by unimaginable heartache.
Anthony was born 30 miles north of London in Hertfordshire to Jamaican parents who emigrated to England in the late ’50s. They were young and in love, and they moved to England for better opportunities—settling in London. His mother had three children before turning 25 but tragically passed away giving birth to her third, Anthony’s youngest sister.
He remembers somberly, “My father went into the hospital with two children under 5 and came back with three children and no wife. I was 3, my older sister was 4 and my baby sister was a newborn. We were well taken care of, but I always think about my dad moving to England, to a foreign country at a very young age, losing his wife and having to navigate being in a land he knew nothing about.”
His dad passed away in 2004, and Anthony remembers him as the most incredible man and father. “He was the kindest, sweetest, most giving guy you’d ever imagined. He did a really good job raising all of us and taking care of us.”
Thankfully, Anthony had a large family living in England while he was growing up. They were able to offer much-needed love and support to all of them. He had more than 20 aunts and uncles, and his aunts first sparked Anthony’s fascination with hair. At 15 he left school to pursue his dream and entered into a five-year apprenticeship in hairstyling.
By the time he was 20, he was fully qualified and working at one of the top salons in London. Shortly afterward, he opened his own salon with his cousin.
In his mid-20s, during what initially was to be a quick visit before moving to Amsterdam, Anthony arrived in Los Angeles and never looked back. He fell in love with the healthy lifestyle and sunny climate of the South Bay—a huge departure from a cold and grey London.
At first he stayed in Torrance, turning to the Yellow Pages for work opportunities. Knowing he wanted to work in Manhattan Beach, he found a listing for a salon named Michael’s on Highland and Rosecrans and called them. He reached the owner, Michael, who fortunately for Anthony urgently needed someone that same day.
Michael fell in love with Anthony’s work and offered him a job, assisting him with work permits and eventually a green card. Anthony worked there for 4½ years until Michael sold the salon. He will forever be grateful to Michael, who passed away just a year later.
Anthony then worked for hair care company Joico as part of the international artistic team traveling the world. They went to Asia, the Pacific Rim and Australia, teaching people how to cut and color. One of his team members was Bravo star Tabatha Coffey. She had auditioned for the Shear Genius show in New York and encouraged Anthony to audition in L.A. The show’s premise was a battle between 12 hairdressers for the title of #1 hairstylist in the U.S. Anthony auditioned along with 16,000 other hairdressers nationwide and was chosen as one of the lucky 12.
He describes the experience as nothing short of amazing. “It was the inception of reality TV. On the show, I was the guy who literally flew under the radar. I kept cool, calm and collected for the entire show. I didn’t create a lot of drama but just nailed every challenge,” he shares.
And that strategy worked; Anthony won best hairstylist. He attributes this to his training and experience, coming up now on his 43rd year of doing hair.
For Anthony, the highlight of the Shear Genius experience was when Vidal Sassoon, one of the judges (and one of Anthony’s idols), said that he’d never seen a better exhibit of haircutting and styling. Anthony was dumbfounded. He remembers falling asleep still holding one of Vidal Sassoon’s precision-haircutting books, as he used every spare moment to study his idol’s techniques. He still pinches himself thinking about that moment.
That experience motivated Anthony to start his own business, a 32-chair salon down the street on Aviation, where he employed 22 stylists. Twelve successful years later, Anthony began to tire. Between the rising cost of rent and the demands of managing a large staff, he lost his spark.
Fate stepped in when Anthony ran into hairstylist and entrepreneur José Eber at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. José asked what Anthony was up to and told him to come and meet with him. Anthony followed through, and José offered him the position of artistic director at José Éber salon. It proved to be another great experience, but deep down Anthony knew he was happiest as a leader, an entrepreneur and someone who creates opportunity. It was time to create something he could call his own—something truly special.
Through a friend, Anthony got word that another South Bay salon space was coming available when the owner retired. When Anthony saw the space, he was sold. The hard part would be finding a way to stand out.
“I thought, ‘OK, I am known around here, but how can I separate myself on hairdresser’s row? How can I make my salon uniquely different?’ It’s got to be so much more than just hair. I’m going to assume that everybody does decent hair. So customer service is #1—it has to be amazing. And #2, create an incredible experiential environment.”
From that vision, The Londoner salon was born—a delightful refuge where every aspect boasts an English theme. While your color is processing, you can sip tea or champagne and snack on proper English scones shipped directly from the U.K. Some customers love the experience so much, they bring their friends with them for a social hour of sorts. During the pandemic, Anthony tented the parking lot to bring the entire hairdressing operation outside.
The salon’s success remains rooted in the culture Anthony created and the care he has for his employees. They are all salaried and receive bonuses and commission, as well as a 401K.
“We do education together,” he says. “We train together and take trips to do all these things. I take people straight out of school and train them as my assistant for a year. And then once they’ve trained, they get put on the floor as a stylist. I believe that if you have a gift, you should teach it to somebody else … give it away. And the only thing that I always ask my trainees to do is to teach what they have learned to somebody else. It’s the gift that keeps giving.”
Since he moved back to the South Bay, Anthony has become even more involved in the community. He sits on the board of the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce and works to promote economic development in all of Hermosa—not just downtown. “My job right now is to make sure that all the businesses in the area get supported,” he explains.
Anthony even went so far as to make flower baskets for all the lampposts and trees going down Aviation—his effort to beautify the area. He has also worked with Councilman Ray Jackson in helping the homeless at the beach.
On January 1 each year, Anthony takes on a new thing to do. But unlike most people’s resolutions that are broken by February, Anthony sticks to it all year. This has made him adept in such diverse activities as photography, guitar, floral arranging, French cuisine, ballroom dancing, Portuguese, enology (the study of wine) and marathon running, amongst other things. His joy is contagious as he describes those activities, as well as how much he is looking forward to planning his wedding with his longtime partner, Mark.
We finished our conversation, and Anthony saw me out of the salon with a giant smile and a bear hug. Even though we’d met just a short time before that, I left feeling as though we’d been friends forever. I realized that it’s perhaps Anthony’s joyful way of being that sparks that joy in others, and it is that joy that helps transform The Londoner from a salon to a destination.