To hear salon owner Anthony Lombardi speak, you’d never know he’s the star of the hit reality series “Jerseylicious.” He seems to have taken the seismic shift in his life and career all in stride.
The show’s popularity has catapulted this small-town salon owner into big-time celebrity and turned his new normal into a life of talk show interviews, public appearances and photo shoots not to mention several months of filming a year. Oh, and the actual business of running a salon.
If all that wasn’t enough, Lombardi is also in the middle of opening a brand new, cavernous space just up the block from his current location in Verona. The new salon, to be located at 277 Bloomfield Avenue, is slated to open in April.
Now entering its fourth season, the show propelling Lombardi’s expansion has been a hit for the Style Network from the very start when it won the channel its best ever ratings for a new show among women age 18 to 49. Since then, “Jerseylicious” has gone on to win close to 10 million viewers and has become the network’s number one series.
The ratings can be mystifying for someone who just three years ago was working out of his friend Gayle Giacomo’s salon while he renovated his first salon in Verona. At the time, Giacomo was in talks with the Style Network for a show featuring her central Jersey salon, Gatsby, and Lombardi got swept along for the ride.
“I never thought I’d be here,” Lombardi said of the show’s success and its considerable impact on his career. “I thought it would bring in a little bit of business.”
Although Lombardi has starred on the show since it first aired in 2010, he said he’s still baffled as to how it all happened. “I still don’t know,” Lombardi mused. “It’s been the biggest mystery.”
Lombardi who opened his first salon in Verona six years ago can now claim 17 years in the business, but said it was a stroke of luck that originally led him into the field.
As a young college student his plans were to become a chef, but he quickly learned cooking for him was more of a hobby than a career. Out of college and a career, Lombardi needed to find a job. That’s when a friend suggested work at a salon.
“I decided to try it, and I fell in love with it,” said Lombardi who thought the career choice would be a good way to meet women.
Now fans from all 50 states have sought out Lombardi, and he’s even had clients come from as far as England, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.
“I don’t think the person from South Africa is going to become a regular client,” he joked.
The native New Jerseyan, though, is just happy to be reaching people outside Essex County. And while he appreciates all the attention the show has brought, his focus remains at the local level.
“People in Verona didn’t even know I was here, and now they are repeat clients. Those are the ones you want.”
And now those are the ones he has, which is how he found himself in need of a larger space. But, fear not fans. Lombardi is keeping the Jerseyliciousness in Verona. Clients old and new can find his modern, loft-like salon styled in bold black and white tossed with bright splashes of yellow in the new shopping center anchored by 7-Eleven.
The current season will follow all the trials and triumphs of the massive renovation, the chaos of moving to a new space and all the characteristic drama fans tune in for. With a tagline like “where big hair meets even bigger personalities” explosions, construction or otherwise, are bound to erupt.
But while the show’s catchy tagline plays on a stereotype that plagues the fine citizens of our fair state, Lombardi remains unfazed.
“Have you met Tracy [DiMarco]?” he asked. “She’s still living the big hair lifestyle. If you come to Jersey you’re gonna find someone wearing leopard print and big hair.”
The man has a point. But Lombardi disagrees with another stereotype that afflicts his industry, one that perceives hair stylists as unintelligent. “These are some of the most intelligent people I know.”
Take Glam Fairy Alexa Prisco. “She’s like a mad scientist,” Lombardi gushed before adding, “We are all artistic people.”
Catch all your favorite “mad scientists” at work on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. And you can be sure Lombardi will be watching, too.
“I’m also a fan,” he said while asserting he has no idea what will happen until the show airs each week.
“Maybe I know a little bit more than everybody else,” he admitted. Still, he insisted he’s anxious to see “what’s gonna happen this week.”
Lombardi is clearly enjoying the ride, but he noted even after the film has stopped rolling, the crews have packed up and everyone has moved on to the next big thing, he will still be here doing what he loves.
“This business is my life—television or not.”