Like many newcomers to Canada, Hasoon Rahal's early story is one of struggle--in his case, moving with family from a farm life in Lebanon to the strange, cold Canadian prairies in 1981. The 14-year-old Rahal was scared, knowing little English, but he was also curious and determined; traits that drove him then and still today as the hugely successful CEO and owner of Spasation Salon & Spa hair/beauty/med spa facilities in the province.
Though the pandemic hit the industry hard, with spa closures and layoffs, the 55-year-old Rahal has never wavered on his credo: Work long hours, be honest and good to others, and you'll be rewarded, he says. And to think it all started with a cheap haircut.
Perhaps it was serendipity; young Rahal's venturing into Marvel College for a trim started a journey in the salon business and away from his father's dream that his son become a lawyer. He had already been making money babysitting after school, then as a janitor and selling chocolates, newspapers and t-shirts door-to-door. But things changed for teen Rahal that fateful day, when the salon teacher saw his gregarious, artistic nature and said she'd train the lad for free.
"It'd take me eight years to become a lawyer--this seemed a quicker way to succeed," recalled Rahal, who says his ebullient personality and having hair down to his waist were a magnet for customers; factors that held him in good stead when he would later compete in hair styling competitions around the world. "I was a top student; student number 27, I still remember; the practical work came naturally to me. If you like it, hair styling is an art; and I liked it."
Rahal moved quickly through the ranks, eventually landing at Vidal Sassoon where he become a top teacher and barber. Rahal was something of a celebrity back in the day, he says, running the Sassoon salon on Jasper Ave and offering cuts to notables like former Premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty--even a local football star and an Oiler or two.
Knowing he wanted to own his own business rather than work within the Marvel fold long term, Rahal went from owning salons in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario under the Sassoon International brand to eventually taking over as CEO and owner of Spasation Salon & Spas.
"Hasoon is a unique, artistic soul; creative and with incredibly good business acumen," said Sandra Moren, a master judge of hairstyling who has worked with Rahal over several decades including as manager/marketing for Londonderry Spasation.
"He was one of my biggest teachers; the books I've written-- Spa & Salon Alchemy: the Ultimate Guide to Spa & Salon Ownership and Spa & Salon Alchemy; Step by Step Procedures, are based on my experiences with Hasoon."
Moren says Rahal gave her opportunities that opened doors; a theme that comes up over and again in Rahal's life. "He's generous and good-hearted; sometimes too good hearted," she added.
Rahal says he prefers to see it as giving back; helping those who've helped him or who need the same kind of opportunities he had. It's why the businessman has an added office adjoining his own, under the banner Document Global Express. Here, he serves as a notary public, providing convenient document, power of attorney and shipping services to immigrants from Europe, the Middle East--anywhere--to help them settle into the city.
Awards and article clippings in his office document Rahal's years of celebrity-style success not only behind the barber chair, but because of his service work, which includes a recently completed term as Honorary Consul for the government of Lebanon.
But it's not just about serving the city's multicultural communities and new Canadians. Through the years, Rahal has given tens of thousands of dollars in cash, spa merchandise donations, gift certificates and his own volunteer hours to charities that are close to his heart. The WIN House women's shelter, the Hair Massacure fundraiser for cancer research, Neighbourhood Watch, the Fallen Heroes: The Journey Home documentary and the fundraising supply drive following the 2020 explosion in Beirut; these are just some of the causes Rahal has supported.
There's work with local Lebanese and faith communities too and at the moment, the entrepreneur is even offering training/work in his spas to Ukrainian refugees that need a hand getting established in their newly adopted city.
"I understand the struggle of those who leave their homeland, whether by choice or because of conflict," he said. "I like people--this is me. I give time and energy to those trying to find their place in this country."
Rahal's big-hearted ways even meant giving employees aid when COVID-19 hit; helping some with small loans so they could make ends meet when Spasation shops were shut. "We went from 700 employees to 280; that's been hard," Rahal said of the chain, which permanently closed locations on Whyte Ave. and at City Centre during the pandemic.
"My family taught me to always give, to love people and help the community, so it was difficult to see employees let go, and others struggle with their mortgages."
Even though Rahal doesn't stand behind the salon chair anymore, the father of four, (26-year-old son Basil works with him) says he works as hard as ever; just in a different way. "I'm still up at five and get in the office early. I love this business--it has made my life."
Rahal and his wife live in the same Castledowns-area home they've had for decades too. And while the Renaissance-man, who has also been a music promoter and restauranteur, says he's not slowing down yet, he does enjoy going for a swim or walk whenever he can.
Forever the businessman, Rahal continues his mission of providing a luxurious spa experience to Canadian women, similar to the ancient-style health and wellness spas enjoyed around Europe. Spasation operates large locations on Calgary Trail South and at Londonderry and is expanding its Kingsway space. Going forward, Rahal says there will be an even greater focus on high-level med spa services like microneedling, botox, peels etc. There's also the entrepreneur's Hot Shears salon and barber shop in Londonderry, offering everything from hot shaves to highlights.
"There's no secret to success except to be honest and work hard. But you have to be good--artistic and above average too," he laughed. "I know how hard life is--I didn't come from anything easy. Life is short and God has rewarded me."