Buzz on Business: Kenneth Cote’s Long Reign on Main Street

by | Aug 17, 2023

Above: Richard Bump and Ken Cote with a photo of their younger selves. Kenneth Cote Salon has been on Main Street for 41 years. 

It was 1982. The Kent Theater was still in operation and Kenneth Cote and Richard Bump had just caught a screening of the movie Amadeus there when, on their way out of town, they noticed the “For Rent” sign on the window at 333 Main St. 

The building was being rehabbed (no longer home of Bay Buick) and Main Street itself was torn up for repaving. Bump said the town was a “dead zone,” with lots of boarded-up spaces. But they saw something in the location. Not long after, they opened the second Kenneth Cote Salon. 

Kenneth Cote was already a big deal on the East Side of Providence, a hip salon attracting a lot of attention. According to Cote, southern Rhode Island clients were begging him to open something closer.

“It was kind of like in-between,” Cote said of East Greenwich in a recent interview. 

“We got here at the right time. It was the right place at the right time,” said Bump, who has worked with Cote from the beginning managing the salons. 

In the past 41 years, they have seen a lot of changes on Main Street. The Kent and Greenwich theaters, Almacs, Greenwich Hardware, Benny’s are long gone. So are the bridal boutiques that took over the street in the 1990s. When Kenneth Cote opened on Main Street there were only a couple of barbershops on the street. Now there are several salons.

Kenneth Cote Salon has endured. 

Covid, obviously, was a huge challenge. The salon was closed for nine weeks* and Bump became one of the leaders of the industry working with the state to establish procedures to reopen. Today, the salon has fewer stylists than before but the focus on making people feel good about their hair remains central. For Cote, hair is a passion. 

“I love it. I love the people. I love the relationships,” he said. “For me, it brings me closer to being able to do an even better job, by knowing my clients better.” 

He adds, “Honestly, I’m a better Ken because of my clients.”  

When he first started out, he got a lot praise and was very well received – doing big shows everywhere from Los Angeles and Hong Kong to New York and London and having three salons open at one point. It was all a bit heady to be so big and not even 30 years old. 

He sees his talent as a gift that he has developed over the years. 

“To be able to see hair differently and not just cookie-cutter hair,” he says. “It really is an individual thing. It’s all about balance and design … and suiting a style to a person’s character and personality.” 

Cote’s approach to hair sounds a bit zen-like. 

“As long as a person feels comfortable, there should be no stress in what you do to your hair,” he says. “Let nature allow it to move, as long as it’s cut right, it will find its balance.”

*Editor’s note: We corrected the length of time the salon was closed – it was 9 weeks. Apologies for the error.

Kenneth Cote at 333 Main Street.

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Barbara Brown
Barbara Brown
August 18, 2023 2:25 pm

I have been a client there almost from when it opened, and happily, it still is the salon I use. Congrats on your longevity Richard and Ken and Bob too.

Richard bump
August 18, 2023 3:34 pm

We were closed for 9 weeks.. not 9 months!

Richard bump
August 18, 2023 9:19 pm

Thanks for the article!

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