By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Sitting at the corner of Penn and 9th, above Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, is Twelve27 Salon. Opened fewer than two years ago by Hilary Ballard-Johnston and her sister, Veronica, Twelve27 works to provide an elevated, upscale salon experience to those in the heart of downtown. In addition to working Downtown, Ballard-Johnston also lives just steps from her business in the Cultural District. Working and living in Downtown Pittsburgh over the past six years has given her a unique perspective on area and the rapid changes occurring there.
What drew you to Downtown Pittsburgh?
I moved here six years ago from South Bend, Indiana. I met my husband when I moved, and we got married, which is what kept me in Pittsburgh. When I first moved here, I was living in Oakmont, which was great but small, very small. I wanted to be in a walkable area. I was working Downtown at another salon, and we wanted something closer and more convenient. I just wanted to try downtown city living, and we really thought we’d do it for a year, buy a house and that would be it. But I don’t know that we’ll leave, now we just love it!
How did you come to open a salon Downtown?
This is my twelfth year doing hair. I had a career before I moved to Pittsburgh, moved here and loved it, and then convinced my sister to move. Since I’m from an all-hair background, I don’t have much of the business management side of things, and that is her background. So we started talking about starting a salon, we found the space, and we were living next door, so it all just worked.
We opened the salon in November 2017, and we love it. We really wanted to provide a level of elevated service in the city. Veronica, my sister, has lived in lots of larger cities, and she thought Pittsburgh was lacking that really elevated level in the beauty industry, so that’s what we’ve been trying to do here. We love it, we’re so, so happy to be in business here!
How has business been?
Our first year was insane, it was way, way more than we expected. We started out with a staff of six, and we just hired our twentieth employee. It’s been rapid growth in the 20 months we’ve been open now. Our focus is on our staff, and obviously our clientele as well, but we really want to be the best place to work. We want to treat everyone with kindness and it seems to be working really well! Business has been great, and we really do credit a lot of that to our location.
What has your clientele been like?
Being down here is a really cool network of people. There’s your high-end business professionals, who want to get in and out, they’re busy, they want to get back to work. And we also get a lot of kids from CAPA, really creative and exciting and doing fun things. Everyday, there’s a very different cultural clash of people in here, which we love!
What is your favorite part of living and working in downtown?
It’s just been really fun to be in a growing city. I think starting a business is awesome regardless and has its own challenges, and for us, I think we’ve been really fortunate to be right in the middle. It’s not new and dead, but it’s not old and established. We get to help make some of those changes, so that’s been my favorite part of living Downtown.