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Salon owner gives back with style

SOLANA BEACH — A midafternoon fog that rolled in Nov. 19 couldn’t dampen the spirits of seven girls from Casa de Amparo who were pampered like the rich and famous, courtesy of Nezi and Michelle Arbib, owners of Shampoo Too! in Solana Beach.
Most of the 9- to 15-year-olds received a shampoo, cut and styling. One youngster, who didn’t want her long hair cut, was instead treated to a wash, deep conditioning and blow dry. Another girl, who had her heart set on new color, didn’t realize it went against the rules at Casa de Amparo, an Oceanside-based nonprofit agency serving abused, neglected and at-risk children. Nezi Arbib invited her to return another day, giving her time to decide what she wanted to have done.
In addition to new hairstyles, the Arbibs offered popcorn, fresh fruit, candy and entertainment by Uncle Bobo the Clown. Providing the complimentary coiffures was a first for the Arbibs. “But I told them already it’s not going to be the last,” Michelle Arbib said before the girls had even arrived.
“I believe in giving back to the world,” Nezi Arbib said. “People need to know that we need to give and nothing is going to hurt us. It’s not going to take anything out of us. It’s going to make us stronger, make us believe that there’s still hope in this world.
“These kids that we’re helping, they have nothing in the world,” he said. “They got all the way to the bottom. So what are we giving? We’re giving nothing. Whatever you can do to make people one day feel better than us, it opens up the world.”
Helping others, especially those less fortunate, isn’t a philosophy that’s limited to an occasional charitable event. For the Arbibs, it’s a lifestyle.
“I think the world is getting beat up by people, by human beings,” Nezi Arbib said. “Everybody’s taking. Everybody’s expecting. Everybody wants. If everyone gives a little bit — even in the worst time, even in the best time — nothing’s going to happen to us. We’re just going to get more love, more affection.
“This is what we do since we came to this country,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful country in the world that gives you all the opportunity. This is pretty much the American dream. You can do. You can give. You can express your feelings and things come to you in the best way ever. I feel honored to be able to give. It gives me more pleasure than taking.”
The Arbibs are originally from Israel, where they both served in the military. After completing his service, Nezi Arbib wanted to see the world. In the mid-1980s he moved to Los Angeles and trained to become a hair stylist. Michelle joined him a few years later and they married in 1989.
Nezi Arbib worked in several salons before he and his brothers opened a shop in the Beverly Hills area. It became increasingly popular with the Hollywood crowd, and their clientele soon included celebrities and musicians.
If Nezi Arbib’s story sounds familiar — perhaps a little like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie — it’s because Arbib was the inspiration for the title character in Sandler’s “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.”
Several years ago, Sandler spent time in Arbib’s Los Angeles salon learning everything from his accent and mannerisms to his hair styling techniques. Since then, the Arbibs moved to San Diego to raise their five children. Again, Nezi Arbib worked in area salons before opening Shampoo Too! in May. The film was released a month later. Word of his Hollywood connection quickly spread and Arbib soon found himself being interviewed for local TV and newspaper stories.
Uncomfortable at first with all the media attention, Arbib decided to “take this thing and … turn it into something good.”
“First I got scared,” he said. “I’m not built for this stuff. But I spoke to my wife and we said we’d like to see it go into giving. And she found these wonderful kids.”