CUT ABOVE THE REST: Christiaan Salon and Day Spa has been a staple of Providence’s small-business community for nearly 30 years. Pictured above are owners Bill Oates and Sheri Petrarca, right, with co-manager Tasha Regine.
Sure, being surrounded by beautiful women is nice, says Bill Oates, founder and co-owner of Christiaan Salon & Day Spa. But that’s not the only reason he became a dedicated hair-styling enthusiast.
He was first exposed to the industry in his mother’s former salon, the Powder Puff Beauty Shoppe, which was in operation in Wayland Square many years ago.
“I was almost born in the salon and that was my introduction to hairdressing,” said Oates, now 74. “It’s just a lot of fun to be around those women.”
He’s talking about the hair stylists he employs now at Christiaan, on Providence’s historic Benefit Street, where he relocated from his original Thayer Street location in 1994. He turned over most of the day-to-day operations to his daughter and business partner, Sheri Petrarca.
The whole thing really started – based on Oates’ early love for his mother’s shop – after he studied chemistry at Providence College and worked for a few years in that industry in the early 1960s.
“I can get bored and I didn’t really like it and thought maybe I could do hairdressing,” Oates said. “I was good with my hands and good with people.”
After studying hairdressing at the former Angelo’s Beauty Academy, he opened the House of Taber in East Greenwich in the late 1960s and ran it successfully for a few years before getting bored yet again and took off for New York City to work for Vidal Sassoon, the world-famous hair stylist who was at the time, Oates said, leading somewhat of a fashion and styling revolution.
Through his work there, he became friends with Christiaan Houtenbos, who already was making a name for himself freelancing as a stylist for photo shoots for such publications as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. When Houtenbos, a Dutchman, said he wanted to return to Amsterdam and open up a salon there to be near family, Oates didn’t need much convincing.
Starting in 1971, the partners ran Christiaan’s as a small salon while Oates “fell in love with Amsterdam.” But about a year later he decided he would like another change and decided to return to Providence to settle down.
Opening his doors on Thayer Street was an easy decision.