Teddie Kossof’s office is packed with knickknacks and tchotchkes, artwork he admires and mixed-medium pieces he created.
Pictures of his family line the wall behind his desk, which is covered in figurines of mythical creatures and personal mementos. Among the statues sits a small, unassuming flip picture frame open to a photograph from August 2, 1988. In the picture, Kossof stands in front of a large gray and black van. A young man in a wheelchair sits next to him, and they smile as they each give the camera a thumbs up. The boy is the son of a regular client from his salon, and after a football accident left him in a wheelchair, Kossof raised $45,000 to buy him a van he could use to get to school. She came to him and said she was in desperate need, Kossof says, that nobody was helping her, that she couldn’t make her weekly salon visits because she had too many new expenses.
“I stepped in and helped her with her hair services,” he says. “I made sure that her son got that van so that he could go to school and feel good about himself again.”
With a mantra of “what goes around, comes around,” Kossof has been providing charitable assistance since his salon opened in 1975. Recently, his salon was honored as a best practice in philanthropy in the January 2014 issue of Salon Today, a business magazine for salon and spa owners. “If you don’t give, you don’t get,” Kossof says. “If more people adopted that theory, everyone could help each other—that’s what it’s all about.”
Kossof and Alan, his son and co-owner, are open to any cause—the salon’s website even includes a “request a donation” link—but many of their efforts are geared toward women and children. Kossof served on the board of Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook for 15 years and provided the Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center with hairdressers and makeup artists for their charitable fashion shows. As a consultant, he helped women losing their hair during chemotherapy navigate away from companies that take advantage of vulnerable cancer patients. “It’s a very tough situation for women with cancer,” Kossof says. “Your hair is your crown and glory—your number one accessory.” Instead of watching them get ripped off, Kossof helped them find affordable wigs.
If you ask him about organizations the salon works with repeatedly, he gets flustered. “There’re just so many,” he says with a laugh. “And the wonderful thing is, the staff should not be left out of this. I think they are the real heroes.” Kossof’s salon has donated almost $200,000 in in-kind services to the community. Because he relies on his staff to donate their time, he looks for individuals with an appreciation for community service when hiring. “I look for the heart and the willingness to help others,” Kossof says. “If I get that message through their personality, if they’re willing to go the extra mile, that’s someone I want to hire. That’s someone I want to work with.”
And for Kossof, what goes around really has come around. The Teddie Kossof Salon and Spa is a multi-story beauty beehive open seven days a week. The front desk is a flurry of activity as staff members direct clients to their hairdressers, nail stylists and masseuses. Kossof prides himself on being the first concept salon; the building houses a cosmetic dentistry practice, chiropractor and nutritionist, as well as an aesthetic medicine office for non-invasive cosmetic procedures.
While the list of services is impressive, Kossof believes his commitment to the community is his most rewarding asset. “There are individuals who come to this salon who say the reason they keep coming back, so loyal, is because we help their organization,” Kossof says. “We’ve stood behind them over the years where a lot of other places [haven’t.]”
Read about Teddie Kossof’s daughter, Keeley, here.
Photo: Alan and Teddie Kossof