Profile - Jo Ranow

Welcome to Savannah, America's Most Beautiful City










Jo Ranow
Woman on the Go!













When Jo Ranow launched her hair salon, Wizard of Ahhs, nearly 10 years ago, she had hardly a nickel to her name or more than a farthing of experience at running a business. She had no idea that the failure rate of small businesses during the first year is more than 80 percent, or that, of the rare 20 percent who make it through the first year, over 65 percent collapse before five years have elapsed.

What Ranow did have, however, was determination, people skills, energy, and hair styling experience all in equal abundance.

“I never wanted to work for anyone else again,” she says. “I wanted independence. I wanted it my way.”

So patiently, and with considerable perseverance, Ranow had saved just enough money to open the shop. The space she’d rented wasn’t much more than a shell, she recalls now, and she painted and hammered and nailed and hauled in equipment and supplies. She decorated. And on one fine Monday morning in October, she opened her doors.

In every spare moment during the ensuing weeks and months, she walked the streets. She delivered flyers on the Wizard of Ahhs. She introduced herself to businesses and hotels in the area, many of whose personnel became loyal followers.

“I had four clients the day I opened,” she says. “I’ll never forget that day. Or them. I had them each sign a dollar bill. I still have those bills. And I still have those four clients, too.” Ranow smiles, big blue eyes glowing.

That’s no surprise. Ranow has garnered a lot of clients in the succeeding years. Inevitably, some have moved to other places, other cities, other states, and even other countries. What they seem to have in common is a dedicated loyalty to Jo Ranow. These days she is aided by her two leading stylists, Wendy, winner of the coveted Best Stylist award, and Renata, whose loyal clients often wait patiently for weeks for her exquisite coloring techniques.

“I have a diplomat, originally from the Cayman Islands, who’s now in Ottawa, he flies in from there every few months. He won’t let anyone but me touch his hair.” And there are those who come from the Carolinas, Florida, Tennessee…

Then as now, Ranow worked about a 50 hour week running every aspect of her business, from the obvious cutting, coloring and styling, to the esoteric, Hair Replacement, a highly specialized technique of replacing hair which has been lost, either through baldness, illness, accidents, or chemotherapy.

And when she wasn’t in the shop, she did everything else, from bookkeeping to decorating, from coping with the intricacies of permits and licenses, taxes and endless management issues with her staff.

But she always found time for the partying and hostessing, nurturing and caring, for which Ranow is legendary.

This frequent insomniac often awakens at two or three in the morning and decides to vacuum her house, take down all the curtains and wash and iron them, and cook up a batch of food.

“If I wake up, I just can’t stay in bed,” she says, so I’ll tackle whatever needs to be done and if I’ve got some extra time and still can’t sleep, I’ll cook up a bunch of stuff and take it around to friends for their lunch the next day.”

Whatever her nighttime forays, she’s up at 7:30 in the morning.

“I get up, let Duchess (her petite Tuxedo cat) out, put coffee on, pull everything off the bed and remake it from scratch, feed the birds, drink some coffee and eat breakfast. Then I wash and dry and put away the dishes, take a shower, get dressed and head for the shop.”










She starts at 9:30, and works till 6:30 or 7, usually, although some days she’s there till 10 or 11 pm. After work, she’ll often stop in at Pinkies next door to see friends, have a quick drink and head home. “I’ll check the answering machine then, return phone calls if it’s not too late, get undressed and get the hair off me. Feed myself and Duchess. Do some housecleaning or laundry or whatever.”

Jo Ranow sometimes seems to sport the energy of a 12-week puppy, racing full tilt from work to workouts, from gardening and housekeeping, to partying and hostessing. Her neighbors think she’s the all-American girl-next-door, her friends and family, who mostly call her “Jo-Mama,” know she’s the classic “busiest person you know,” -- the one to ask for help when you need something done fast.

Ranow (pronounced like Right Now!) has never encountered a stranger, just friends she hasn’t met yet.

Every holiday, from Christmas and Thanksgiving, to St. Pat’s Day, Halloween, Labor Day and Memorial Day, plus plenty of days in between, brings a mob of people come to savor the wares of this old fashioned Southern Hostess with the Mostest, the Mostest in this case entailing platter after platter of Southern cooking that threatens to rival Paula, Queen of the Deen Empire.

Everybody knows they’re welcome at Ranow’s. For instance, recently, the daughter of her first ex-husband, showed up with her boyfriend to celebrate their graduation from college. Where else would they want to go when “Jo’s place” is always available? And there are others. Her son, Brian, a Kentucky-based environmental executive, frequently comes with his wife and kids. Sister Andy arrives with her son and family and sister Mickey and husband arrive as well. Plus a host of others friends and relatives from around the country.

From time to time, Ranow treats herself to a cruise, usually to her beloved Aruba, where between partying all night and diving and snorkeling all day, she maintains her frenetic pace.

About five years after launching the Wizard of Ahhs, Ranow fulfilled another lifelong dream—a house of her own. The house was nice, a three-bedroom ranch style that many people would simply have moved into, filled with their own furnishings and lived in. Not Ranow. She added about another 40-hour week to her 50 hours workweek, and re-did the place from floor to ceiling, all by herself. Then she re-landscaped the entire yard. In daunting winter cold, or broiling summer sun, she worked non-stop, every evening well into the night, and on both of her days off, turning this nice house into a spectacular showplace.

When this one-woman tornado was finished, of course she threw a big bash party, started a round of small dinner parties, and kept up the pace. Somewhere along the way, she bought herself her dream car, a little white convertible Mazda. Needless to say, it’s kept polished and buffed and babied like few cars.

Now, after traveling around to countless seminars and conferences, she’s about to launch a new phase of her business, turning her Hair Replacement techniques into a full-fledged business of its own.

“I’ve been working at getting my Master’s Certification in hair replacement,” she says, "and I’ll have it in a few weeks. Then it’s full steam ahead.”

As if she knew any other speed.











previous HOME © Cima Star, 2005