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Meet Joe Normal of Rockin’ Rollers in Sierra Madre

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Normal.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Our story begins back in 1997 when we opened a hair salon in Hollywood and ran it for about 7 years. My wife Gigi did hair, hosted holistic lifestyle events and ran the biz while I held art shows and music nights in the space. It was always a party and a real blast, but when we became parents of a child on the Autism Spectrum, we had to slow down a bit and sold the shop.

Meanwhile, the seed was planted that we could co-mingle our passions and it would make sense to people who came into our business.

As a songwriter and performer, I do a lot of touring, performing, and recording and about 15 years ago discovered that I also had a knack for teaching, which put me in a valuable position to share what I’ve learned over the years, not only as a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and musical artist, but also on a mentoring level.

When we moved to Sierra Madre in 2012 we were basically starting a new life. But, Gigi was driving everywhere to visit former clients and apprehensive about going back to renting a chair in someone else’s shop as she’d done in the past. I was working in a few music shops, which quickly made it apparent to me that I needed the freedom to teach my own way, and have access to teach on drums, piano, ukulele, or whatever other instruments I felt could help nurture and instill a life-long love of music in every student that walked through that door.

So it is that ROCKIN’ ROLLERS began, somewhat accidentally, when I decided to find my own work space and came across this spot in Sierra Madre’s arts and industrial district. I knew I wanted to be in this funky neighborhood right off the main drag, but when the landlord showed me this space, it was out of my budget. I thought that if I could share it with someone, then I could afford it, so in that moment I asked if he was cool if I shared the space with my wife who was a hairdresser, and he said, YES! I remarked that they would have to install a sink and hot water which he agreed to, and BOOM! There it was… we were off and running again.

I know the importance of branding and marketing from all my experience being in bands, so in the blink of an eye came up with the name and concept “Rockin’ Rollers.” My friend Mark Lukas at Proper Villain Studios drew up our logo. I tell people that Gigi is the “Rollers” and I am the “Rockin’.”

Has it been a smooth road?
When we first opened, Gigi and I were in one room that we shared. There were guitars, drums, piano, and instruments on one end of the room, and a barber chair and shampoo bowl on the other! It was a cool idea and the vibe was there, and people loved it. The bonus was that we could easily cross-promote each other and our services. For example, kids could bash away on the instruments while waiting for mom to get her eye brows waxed! Next thing you know, I got a new music student. Our business began to grow simply by word of mouth.

Our biggest drawback was that we couldn’t always work simultaneously because of the mutual interference of sound. I couldn’t teach because the blow-dryers were noisy, Gigi couldn’t chat with clients because the music lessons could get loud.

We reached a point where it was imperative that we expand so we could both take clients simultaneously. It was also important that whatever we did maintained that fusion we had created.

When we first moved in, the shop next to us was vacant, and I recall visualizing the possibility that someday we would expand into that space. Financially I had no clue how we could do it, just a faith that it could happen.

A little over a year after we opened, word came that the adjacent business was closing, and that the shop next door was soon available. We negotiated a new lease with the landlord for the additional space, and with the help of a Go Fund Me campaign, were able to paint, furnish, and equip it with lighting and a small performance space.

I feel that our challenges along the way have always pushed us toward some kind of growth, or up to some other level. It’s been a road paved with little miracles like that, disguised as challenges.

Our current challenge is we’re tapping out on how many hours of the week we want to devote to working, and recognize the need to bring in some other qualified stylists and music facilitators that fit with our philosophy.

That’s a good problem to have.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with ROCKIN’ ROLLERS – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I think what sets us apart from other businesses in our area is that Rockin’ Rollers is all about creating community, and providing services that nurture the spirit and the creative and expressive sides that everyone has.

Your hair and look are a very personal expression of your own uniqueness. Whether you walk around with a gorgeous up-do, or have a razor-cut rockin’ crazy-color shag, or greasy pomp and side burns, we recognize that each is a beautiful individual expression in its own way.

Likewise, people come to us to have a musical enrichment experience with a facilitator who sees them as an individual.

We help you discover and uncover your OWN unique potential. Creating and playing music is a gift that is accessible to EVERYONE, it should be FUN. So we don’t teach from the book, we teach from the heart. I show you how it’s done in a real rock band, and that’s how we approach our lessons. We are musical partners on an equal playing field when you come to my class.

Being the parent of a child with Autism and working with these kids has also given me an edge and patience most music teachers don’t have. Gigi also understands this when she has a kid with sensory issues in her chair.

Something I’d found unbelievable when we moved to Sierra Madre was that in this town so filled to the brim with creative artists, songwriters, musicians, poets, writers and such, there was no regular Open Mic for locals to gather to share their talents and inspire each other.

I saw this as an opportunity to serve our community, to give back, so I took it upon myself to open our space, and host a monthly Free Open Mic where Professionals, Students, and Beginners alike can have an un-intimidating and friendly place to play their new songs, do stand-up, recite poetry, or perform in front of an audience for the first time.

We’ve been hosting our Free Open Mic on the second Sunday of each month successfully since September 2015, and have found it to be a rewarding service we provide to our community and clients.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
When I think about Greater Los Angeles, I am amazed by all the talented and entrepreneurial people I’ve met over the years and continue to meet. Everyone has an idea or scheme to make it big in some way… like this is the land of hopes and dreams.

I’ve finally grown accustomed to and embraced the weather, which took a very long time for me. I need the rain and snow and Autumn leaves to influence my music.

I arrived here from New Jersey in the ’80’s at the height of the Sunset Strip music scene. It was unreal! You could actually become a rock star here, or at least live the decadent lifestyle of one. (And I did!)

Since then the scene has certainly changed or disappeared, as has the entire music business model for people like me who dreamed of having Bruce Springsteen’s job! You either gave up, or had to reinvent yourself. I love music too much to ever give up! I’m still just another L.A. transplant chasing his dream.

I used to think of L.A. as a place that everyone comes to with their dream so they can make it and get out of there. It’s like you come here to get out of here. We’re all just using this place.

Well, when you’ve been here long enough and you finally do go back home where you came from, you realize how lucky you are to live in L.A. A new appreciation kicks in and you start to seek out things like the authentic local cuisine, historical places, the outdoors experiences that the region offers, you know, the incredible “California’s Gold” as the great Heull Howser once put it.

We are so proud to be in a position to contribute something positive to our city. I love the fact that when I walk down the street here in Sierra Madre, my fellow passerby and I will look up at each other and say “Good Morning” or “Hello” or whatever. I try to spread some of that small-town kindness when I venture about below the foothills.

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Image Credit:
Rockin Rollers USA

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