WALLINGFORD — Mónica Ortega’s passion for helping others with their hair began when she was a teenager in Ecuador. This passion eventually led her to start her own business in town, Monica’s Hair Salon.
Ortega is originally from Cuenta, Ecuador, and worked in a salon there. When she arrived in the United States, she first lived with her parents in New York, where she also did hair styling at their home for three years.
When she arrived in Wallingford in 1999, Ortega worked in a hotel and six months later started doing her hair again from home. Not knowing English, Ortega was unable to obtain her hairdresser’s license.
“I remember I was working with a colleague named Teresa who asked me to do her hair. Then I started cutting her son’s hair,” Ortega said. “With her help, I was able to get my license and build up a clientele in Wallingford.”
In 2007, she finally opened Monica’s hair salon, located at 203 Center Street. “It was difficult and scary because I didn’t speak English,” added Ortega. “I didn’t know if I would be able to start my business without knowing English.”
In 2014, Ortega opened a second location in Middletown, but it quickly closed in 2015. “It was difficult because I felt like I had to be in two places at once.”
Ortega said that although she had a lot of customers at the Middletown location, she decided to stick with the Wallingford location because of the relationships she had with customers. “Most of my clients speak Spanish here and it’s easier to communicate and build relationships with them,” she says.
Anita Zuniga, a client since 2005, says she only visits this salon because she has confidence in the service provided. “This salon has everything from my hair, to my nails, to my eyebrows,” Zuniga said. “Every time I come Monica takes care of me and already knows what I like to do.”
Another client, since 2013, is Ximena González, who gives recommendations and brings her family to the salon. “I bring my son, my husband and my daughter for their haircut. Even though my daughter is two years old, she had long hair, so Mónica helped me shape it,” González added.
Her husband, Luis Torres, has always supported Ortega on his journey. He also has a neighboring business called Alex’s Jewelers. “Before we settled there permanently, my business was still following. Wherever her stuff went, I always moved in next door,” Torres said.
Ortega said she couldn’t imagine not having him by her side. “We are one and we support each other. With the right support, anyone can achieve their dreams.
Monica’s hair salon offers services such as haircuts, hair coloring, eyebrows, manicures and pedicures.
For more information, call (203) 284-0444.
Journalist Crystal Elescano can be reached at [email protected]