By: Merilyn E. Ulrich,
Contributing Editor/Senior Staff Writer
The Hair Society
I have lived in my community for 20 years and many things have changed. It’s out with the old and in with the new in many cases including the age of my neighbors! Old Mom & Pop Stores have vanished due to economics and big box stores taking their place and the wants and needs of consumers have changed as well.
One thing had remained unchanged; the little beauty salon on the corner of the street. I first went in there in 1993 and it was the perfect salon for my needs. The cosmetologists were older ladies and had been in the business for many years. They had an even older lady who washed you hair in an old fashioned basin that had seen better days, but she was gentle and never made the water too hot or too cold. It was always just right. She always made pleasant conversation and remembered how old your children and grandchildren were.
The stylists were always friendly and energetic and I often wondered how they managed to stand on their feet for such long periods of time. They never stopped paying attention to their clients and they didn’t talk amongst themselves when they were styling your hair. They only talked to the client and they really made an effort to please every single person who came through their doors.
There were four old style dryers with magazines tossed in a pile beside each chair and their stations were cluttered with family pictures, cute little sayings and at least one plant. Their equipment was shiny and clean and I swear, they never left a hair on the floor for one moment longer than necessary. Someone was always sweeping. I remember one lady who sang while she cleaned and she had a beautiful voice. She sang tunes from a bygone era but they were soothing and pleasant; never distracting or too loud. I often wondered if she had once been a singer in the Big Band era.
They never had those huge leather bound books with pictures of hair styles in them (you know, the ones where some of the women looked like they had flown in from Pluto or Mars on a rocket ship.) They knew what their clients wanted and always did the exact same style requested without a hair out of place. If you brought in a picture of some brand new style (I remember bringing in a picture of a new Bob once), they didn’t blink an eye. They just seemed to know how to do whatever you asked of them.
If you asked them to color your hair they took the time to match the perfect colors for you and your skin tone and they explained exactly what the process would be and if it might “sting a little”. Once I went to a very light shade of blonde and even though my natural color was blonde, it stung a lot. Someone came running with cool, wet clothes to soothe my face and eyes and they pampered me until the process was complete. If you were asking for a color that didn’t exist or would look bad on you they took the time to explain why it wouldn’t suit you and helped you find a better choice.
No, this wasn’t Shangri la but it was darned close. I loved that place and I went as often as possible. This was old school beauty work and even though there were more modern places in the neighborhood, this one stood out among all of the rest. Service, skill and prices were all perfect.
During the last several years I have not been able to get to a beauty salon or anywhere else except for the grocery store and my husband’s doctors visits so I hadn’t been back to the little shop on the corner for a long, long time. I missed it and thought about it often, but I was no longer a regular and I wondered if they ever thought about me as well.
Last week I happened to ride past the corner where the shop stood because of an errand that had to be run and I noticed something different immediately….a huge, gaudy sign on the front of the store that didn’t look familiar at all. I asked the person driving me if they would mind stopping so I could go in and say hello to my old friends and she said “No problem.”
As I entered the store it took my breath away. NO ONE was there who I recognized. The old dryers were gone and so was the old hair washing sink. The stations were stream-lined and the whole place looked like the inside of a space ship. A gum chewing young girl approached me and asked if I needed to make an appointment and I asked her where everyone was (I called them by name). She looked at me like I was crazy and informed me that the shop had been under new ownership for years and that the ladies who used to work there were all let go…they were not up to date anymore. They didn’t fit in with the décor or the new clientele. The new clientele looked to be about mid teens to 20’s and all had the same hair style….not the same color, I might add. They matched the entire spectrum of the rainbow. Almost everyone had some kind of gelled hair or a bob that sort of resembled what I used to wear only choppier. The noise level was ridiculous and I could hardly hear the girl who had approached me speak. Music blasted from speakers over-head and I started to get an instant headache. I would never come to this place to have my hair done. I was too out of date too.
I doubt if there are many little shops like the one that sat on the corner of the street in my neighborhood anymore and I doubt that anyone would want them or patronize them if there were.
Some things change for the better and some things don’t. As my kids used to say, “Just go with the flow, Mom”. I guess that I will, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.
Out with the old and in with the new…