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Cavern of delights

Park Slope’s Frajean has subterranean spa treatment rooms, accessories & more

The Brooklyn Paper

Nowadays, it’s all about the mix.

A loft is an office until 5 pm, and then a nightclub until 7 am. An art museum turns into a sweaty dance club on Saturday nights; a coffee shop specializes in watercolor prints and homemade marshmallows.

Maybe most fittingly for Park Slope is Frajean Salon: a brownstone where you can find a glam handbag, a shot of calm-inducing aromatherapy, European massage or a little advice on how to heal the roots of a perm-fried ’do.

Frajean was established last April by Fran Pionegro, Jean Sopinko and Stephen Lewis, who wanted to create a salon for friends and by friends - a space that has everything you could want, including good listeners.

"I love doing hair, but its not really about hair," said Lewis, the salon’s head stylist. "The most important thing is meeting all the needs of every client. "

"All" and "every" are key to the ethos of Frajean, a fusion of the owner’s first names, Jean and Fran.

The unisex, full-service salon offers haircuts, waxing, manicures and pedicures, facials and starting this spring, customized fruit acid exfoliation and aromatherapy massage on their spacious, outdoor stone patio sporting hand-carved wooden furniture and a hushed, secret-garden intimacy.

Sopinko visited salons around the city before returning to her native Park Slope to open Frajean. Haircutting, styling and colorings are the salon’s bread and butter, and it offers scalp treatments, including an all-herbal wash; extensions; Japanese straightening; and coddling for all kinds of curly and ethnic hair - unique for a salon in Park Slope.

Alas, I was too wimpy for a new ’do, and it was far too cold for a garden treatment when I visited Frajean on a recent, windy Friday.

But Sopinko and company still gave me something new: a salon welcome that didn’t include a mini-lecture from a prettier-than-thou who wanted to see my eyes "brightened up."

Instead, stylists asked me what my non-English name meant and noticed the totally hot (I like to think) modified-with-spikes-beehive I’ve been sporting lately.

The restored brownstone’s blonde wood walls, floor and ceiling glowed. Lewis and Sopinko, the salon’s owner, chatted with a customer about a recent triumph over a bad perm.

The magic hour

After this casual chat, I was offered tea and led down a short set of stairs into the salon’s cavern-like spa treatment area, where I was to ready myself for 60 minutes of full-body Swedish massage.

After the usual "everything but the undies off" instruction, I was left alone in the soft anterior of the salon’s basement.

"Don’t rush," Alexandra Swirskaya, the salon’s massage therapist told me as she set a pile of plush towels at the foot of the bed and turned on an instrumental recording.

With its brick walls and ceiling cloaked in soft, gold and cream-colored linens, the massage area felt like the womb of the avenue, a plush down-under where ceilings are low and the only reminder of the outside world is a faintly humming radiator.

Swirskaya combines deep-tissue muscle massage with gentler Swedish techniques to work out the stress-knots that she calls "epidemic" among her customers.

"I feel the tensions and use a spiritual touch to work into them," she said, explaining that throughout her youth in the Ukraine she learned about the "magical things" that underwrite her mode of bodywork.

And magic it was. Like one of the storefront psychics farther north on Seventh Avenue, she got to the source of my pain with one quick question - "You work a lot on the computer?" - and went to town on the desk-damaged regions of my back.

After roughly two minutes of almond-scented massage, my mind was clean of all lingering nine to five concerns, and my knotted muscles - finito.

I was willing to forgive anything (even the instrumental recording playing - a rendition of what could’ve been the "Aladdin" soundtrack) by the time Swirskaya rubbed out my last gnarl and turned on a low light, again reminding me to take my time dismounting the table and re-dressing.

After a few minutes of silence in the jasmine-scented quiet, I willed myself into rising out of the womb and back up to street-level, where the mood had moved into evening, and it felt even more like a living room-salon mix-up.

Here, the wood walls emanated warmth, Lewis discussed past bad hair-days with a new customer and Sopinko offered me a coffee on a small silver tray.

She explained that Frajean is a first for her; when Sopinko’s not at the salon, she runs an air conditioner business.

"A lot of our best [air conditioning biz] customers were salons that I loved to visit," she said. "I’m always looking of new things to invest in, so why not invest in something you love?"

See the Brooklyn Spa Directory for more information.

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