Zimmerman Brings New Energy into Dad’s Old Biz

Volume 10, Issue 6, June 2008

By Claire Bush

When Lisa Zimmerman joined her father Arnold at their family business in 1976, there were just four employees in the fledgling hair replacement company.

Today, National Hair Centers at 5828 N. 7th St. is the largest firm of its kind in the United States, with a staff of 35 employees who perform cosmetic wizardry for the folically challenged ranging from off-the-head hair replacement to surgical, permanent restoration.

Arnold Zimmerman founded the company in 1975, after working as a salesperson in the hair replacement industry in Washington D.C. When the family moved to the Valley, Arnold opened a location in Glendale, then moved to Maryland and 7th Street in 1979. The company relocated to its current location on 7th Street in 1990.

Lisa became president when Arnold retired in 2000, and now oversees a surgical team of doctors and technicians, along with a dozen licensed cosmetologists, image consultants and administrative staff. Her son, Jay, a student at Arizona State University, also recently joined the firm and will be learning the business from the ground up.

Things have come a long way since the days of old fashioned “hair plug” transplant surgeries, according to Senior Image Consultant, David McKenna. On an average day, doctors at the facility perform at least one hair transplant surgery, where hair is taken from the back of the head and transferred microscopically to the front. The process takes between four to eight hours to complete. Although the majority of clients are men, more women are becoming candidates, according to McKenna, who says that the procedure is virtually undetectable.

The company also offers state-of-the-art hairpieces, hair weaving and polyseal hair restoration, where hair is injected into a thin base and then attached to the scalp, processes that can be used for chemotherapy patients and others who have lost hair for genetic or medical reasons.

Charlene Tatz first visited with the center 12 years ago to combat the effects of her thinning hair. For seven years, Tatz had weaves woven into her existing hair. Five years ago, she opted for a polyseal hairpiece that is attached to the scalp and remains in place for up to six weeks. “Now I have hair to work with,” Tatz says, adding that the procedure has altered her perspective and considerably upped her self-esteem. “It has made me feel better about myself,” she explains.

Over the years, Tatz has acted as an unofficial spokesperson for the firm, often counseling others who are considering the option by sharing her experience. “I’m very open about my hair, ” Tatz says. “I’ve had a very good experience with the staff there and it’s my way of giving back.”

Estevan Rodriguez has had four hair transplants done at the facility over the past 10 years. “I had male pattern baldness in my family, so I decided to do something about it,” he says, adding that his public relations job requires a positive image. “It really does make a difference. I’ve been very pleased with the results.”

Some of the clients are visiting to combat the effects of hair loss during chemotherapy. For them, the center’s staff members provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, along with hairpieces and styling advice, according to McKenna. “We see chemo patients every single day,” he says. “It’s very rewarding work; we know we change lives here.”

Although the center’s staff deals with sobering events during work hours, it’s not all gloom and doom. After hours, Lisa recharges by playing bass guitar in a rock band and exploring the back roads of Arizona on her Harley. She also travels several times each year to meet up with others in her field through Transitions International Group, a global organization of more than 60 hair restoration companies who share educational, marketing and business strategies.

Whether she’s counseling a client, meeting with staff, tuning up her guitar or getting her cycle ready for a ride, Lisa is upbeat about it all. “We’re like family here,” she says. “We really care about the clients. It’s pretty neat when you know you can make a difference.”