Roman and Jesy Diaz met in 2001, in London. They were both in high school, both from Southern California, but had to travel thousands of miles to find each other.
“We were there on summer trips with teachers from our two different high schools,” explains Jesy, who grew up in Los Angeles, while Roman is from San Diego. “After London, we lost touch for about six years,” she adds.
“After high school, I joined the Army,” adds Roman, “so I was gone. We didn’t see each other too much for a while.”
After being stationed in Germany in 2002, Roman served two deployments in Iraq as a light infantryman, the latter tour leaving him with impaired hearing in one ear.
“I got knocked around a little bit,” he allows.
Once back home, he and Jesy reconnected when she found him online and invited him to go camping with her and her family. They recently celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary.
A graphics and web designer – a skill he learned using his military benefits – Roman works for Ad Colony, a mobile ad design firm based in San Francisco. Jesy, a graduate of the Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica, has worked cutting hair at a number of shops in San Francisco and the North Bay. Together, the Diaz’s recently opened Petaluma Hair Co., in a newly built, slightly hidden corner of the ever-expanding Deer Creek Village shopping center. The bright and inviting East Side shop opened its doors just one month ago, and the surrounding exterior is still conspicuously under-construction.
Having moved to Petaluma several years ago, seeking refuge from the city and a place to raise chickens, the Diaz’s treasure the rural piece of land they purchased off of Lakeville Hwy., but never quite expected to someday own their own business.
“I never thought I wanted my own salon,” Jesy admits. Pointing at Roman, she says, “He, apparently, always knew that I would, someday. I’m still a little surprised. Just looking around, thinking, ‘This is my hair salon.’ It’s so surreal.”
The shop’s warm interior is filled with the wooden counters and work stations Roman built, employing repurposed redwood from a fence on the Diaz’s property.
“I didn’t know I could build a hair salon work station, either,” Roman jokes. “I don’t build things, normally.”
“Thank goodness his dad made him get up every Saturday and help out around the house, because now he knows how to use all the basic tools,” says Jesy.
Roman also used his design skills in creating the shop’s logo, and building its website (PetalumaHair.co).
Petaluma Hair Co. currently keeps a small staff — including a front desk coordinator Jesy calls her “hair traffic controller” — who work six days a week, gradually building clientele as Jesy grows accustomed to being her own boss.
“I really see cutting and coloring hair as serving my community,” she says. “I’ve seen videos of people taking their hair-cutting tools out onto the streets to give free haircuts to homeless people. I’d like to do that. I really want to find ways to make my work a service to Petaluma.”
One way the Diaz’s have decided to do that is by offering free haircuts to veterans all day long this Veteran’s Day, and to offer veterans 10 percent off of all services for the rest of the year.
What would you like other Petalumans to think about this Veteran’s Day?
“One thing everyone needs to realize,” says Jest Diaz, “is that soldiers go through so much training to become soldiers, but there’s not so much training to help them become civilians again. One way to support our veterans is to work to get them more help once they get back.”
“When you sign up to serve your country, or fight fires, or catch bad guys, you do it to give back to your community or your country,” says Roman Diaz. “For those who don’t go that way, it’s important to remember to give back to them, too. They need to be looked after too, and they deserve it, because they look after us.”