May 2014

Steve Sleeper

Snips and Clips Around the Northwest | by Sinnamon Harris


Salon de Beauté a Hard-Won Dream Come True

Here is an inspiring, yet familiar, story about obtaining your goals and desires and achieving the "American Dream" of becoming successfully self-employed. Only this story started in the war-torn country of Cambodia in the mid-1970s. History tells us that between 1975 and 1979 one and a half million to three million people were killed in Cambodia through a genocide that was carried out by the then Communist Khmer Rouge regime. Around the age of six or seven Ti Hong and, his younger sister Binh, survived that horror.

"My family took flight in the middle of the night and finally fell asleep in the forest", shuttered Ti, "when we awoke we discovered we were surrounded by dead bodies. My sister Binh had drank from the river which {by morning light} was revealed to also have dead bodies floating about. She was seriously ill from drinking from the polluted waters for a long time afterwards."

Finally, the family, which included their mother and older brother, arrived safely at the Saigon Refugee Camp where they were to live for many years. Both children attended French schools for their formal education. They learned to speak fluent French. Ti began his love of hairstyling early by styling his sister's long hair. He made curls by just using water. He would style her hair before the family attended market day and gained a following thru his efforts.

When he became a teenager he was able to work for a French salon in Saigon as a hair designer apprentice for four years. {This was before beauty schools were established.}

"I earned my first paycheck from styling hair at the age of 16 years!" grinned Ti, "and opened my own salon at the age of 19 in Vietnam."

Ti and his sister Binh have always worked side-by-side since Binh was 15 years old. She would attend school and work in Ti's salon at night.

The family was able to move from Saigon, Vietnam, to Paris, France, in the early 90s because they had an aunt and grandmother who resided there. Ti was able to broaden his skills as a hair designer in a boutique French salon.

You've heard many stories about the ambition and desire of hair stylists who, from a tender age, recognized who and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Perhaps Ti and Binh take more pleasure in beauty after all the ugliness of death and destruction they suffered through and managed to survive as children.

Such were the tremulous beginnings for Ti Hong, Owner/Hairstylist and his sister Binh Hong, Esthetician/Nail Tech, at the popular Salon de Beauté located downtown Bellevue at 10701 Main St, #102.

In 1992 the family finally was able to make that move to the United States. They settled in Bellevue, Washington, where both Ti and Binh attended beauty schools. Ti attended Bellevue Beauty and Binh attended ABC School.

"I always dreamed of having a beautiful salon," smiled Ti, "and I constantly observed other salons' décor and the coordination of the colors intrigued me."

The employees have close ties and Ti observed that he still keeps in touch with former employees because they are like family and support each other. He prefers a small and intimate team atmosphere after working at larger establishments himself. Ti has been in the professional hairstyling industry in the United States for 22 years, but it took a lifetime of perseverance and sacrifices to arrive.

The current Salon de Beauté staff is rounded out by: Elicia Levivia, master barber; Ani Chen, esthetician; Rachel Hile, hairstylist; and Ellen Cho, hairstylist. You may find more information about the salon on: .

Sinnamon Harris is a freelance journalist who has written for Portland's former Our Town, LifeStyles Northwest and East County News. She also wrote NW Stylist's Oregon Board News articles from Oct 2011-2012. To be featured in an upcoming issue, please send an email to