Q: What have you done before this?
A: The first job I ever had was working at Dunkin’ Donuts, across from a big Catholic church in Derry, N.H. I worked there on Sunday mornings. In high school I also worked at the Aquaboggan water slide up in Attitash. I used to sit at the top of the slide in a bathing suit, with a big stick. My job was to make sure that kids didn’t go down too close to each other and pigpile in the pool.
I also lived in Key West for a time, working as a hostess at a time-share resort. But I was always doing other people’s hair. I went to boarding school, and the parents used to send money for the kids to get their hair cut before parents’ weekend. We’d spend the money on beer and then I would cut everyone’s hair. Wherever I worked I always did everyone’s hair, and people told me, why not go to hairdressing school, try it as a career?
So I moved back to New Hampshire and went to a little school in Hudson, Continental Beauty Academy. I was scared to tell my father (George); he thought he was helping me to move back from Key West so I could go to college. When I told him I was going to beauty school, I thought he was going to kill me. But he said all right, fine, go. As long as you finish. Even if you don’t like it, tough it out.
Q: How long did that take?
A: It was 1,500 hours — about a year. We had to do nails, skin, everything, and then go for state boards. Here, we do only hair, though.
Q: Out of school in the ’80s, tough hair decade.
A: I learned how to wrap a lot of perms! Then I worked in a little salon in Hudson. I was truly passionate about doing hair, and I wanted to turn the job into a true profession. And I kind of wanted to prove (that) to my father.
Then one day a sales rep called to ask the owner if she was interested in becoming a Paul Mitchell educator. She wasn’t, she was getting engaged, and so I asked if I could. I’d only been out of school for six months.
They didn’t have a regimented program yet, for an education team. But I went through the training, and went to a big hair show in Manchester, which is where I met Paul. So I got to be his assistant and traveled throughout New England with him.
Q: Who’s Paul Mitchell?
A: He was an icon in the industry, who passed away in the late ’80s. He was from London, moved over here and brought the Vidal Sassoon way of doing hair to the U.S.
He was based in California, but I worked with him in New England. My job, as a certified Paul Mitchell educator, was to go into salons and do classes and show people how to use the products, style, all these things.
Q: This lasted … ?
A: Locally, for seven or eight years. They then started sending me nationally and internationally; I became a corporate trainer, training others to do my old job. I was a senior international trainer.
Q: Fun, huh?
A: It was awesome, yup. I traveled and met people and really became the hairdresser I wanted to be. I kept doing hair a couple of days a week.
Q: Did you work on famous heads?
A: Nobody super-famous. For a while I did a lot of American clothing designers and was doing hair in New York for Fashion Week, which is going on right now. My focus was primarily on coloring; that’s what I truly loved.
Q: What came before opening your own place?
A: I worked internationally until 2000, moved to Manhattan for a while and then to Las Vegas, where I was before I came back here last summer.
My family’s from here, and so is my husband, and we wanted to raise our daughter here.
There was an opportunity: My mom has a store, Kings Wharfe, in this building, and has always done really well, and she’s always said that the people who shop there have certain expectations about getting their hair done, and ask her for a recommendation. And I’d traveled and learned so much, I knew some day I wanted to open my own salon where people could enjoy an experience rather than just a haircut.
This is a place for average women who want to have a great haircut. One client who comes up from Massachusetts, she’s not someone you would think is snobby or who would drive an hour and a half to get her hair done. But she told me, that there are plenty of salons where you can get quality service, but I’ve gone into places where they make you feel you’re not good enough to be in there.
Q: What, no attitude?
A: We check our egos before we come in. You would not see any of us outside work and say, there goes a hairdresser. We’re fashionable, but not extreme. The presentation is part of it. We’re don’t play ‘hairdresser music,’ like hip-hop, house. Erin (McCabe), who’s a super-talented designer, does most of the mixes. Some older songs, some new and unplugged, a bit of a modern twist. It’s relaxing. We offer drinks in china, napkins and real spoons. No wooden stirrers.
Q: No Styrofoam … How many employees?
A: Six of us. All women, yes. I’m not opposed to hiring men, it’s just always hard to find the right man. We have a male clientele of maybe 25 percent. We also do children.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: Hair cuts range between $60-$70 for women, and $30-$40 for men. Highlights start at $100, which isn’t pricey compared to another salon with our level of experience.
Q: You must have had difficult clients?
A: I’ve had to fire a couple. One woman, there are just certain people who are not happy inside, so you can’t make them happy outside. Some women who want their hair blonder, I call it ”blonderexia.” Really, if it were any blonder it would be transparent.
The worst client ever was at the salon back in Hudson. I couldn’t take it any more. She was a psychiatric nurse, she was nuts, and I finally politely told her I’m sorry, I can’t do your hair any more, I can’t make you happy, I have stress when I see your car pull up.
Q: But, celebs … ?
A: One time when I was working in Manhattan, a place called 7th on Sixth, there was a singer, Toni Braxton, doing some modeling for a designer. She was, I mean … We were spoken to by her agent — do not talk to her, do not make eye contact, nothing, only do her hair. The designer told us what to do.
So in the next chair there was Ivanka Trump, who was just a young girl and overheard the whole thing. And then next thing, I was taken aside and told Ivanka has just told us, no one is to make eye contact, or talk … She probably thought it was the thing to do. It was adorable. So Ivanka and Toni Braxton are sitting there, and we’re all just dying laughing, OK.
On the other hand, Amber Valletta, who was in the movie Hitch, playing a supermodel, absolutely gorgeous and a true celebrity, was the sweetest, sweetest person. She apologized for my having to wait for her. So I think sometimes, the more famous the people … It’s almost like new-money syndrome.
I’ve been amazed by runway models, with their natural beauty, so sweet and kind, and even hungry for people to be nice to them, which is kinda sad. It’s taught me a lot about real beauty. People don’t like to acknowledge it as much as they should.
Q: So does the ”fringe” name come from the Brit word for bangs?
A: Well, last spring when we decided to open the salon, I had to decide what to call it. My sarcasm gets the best of me sometimes. My hair was all one length, I was 45, and joking around, and saying, ”bangs or Botox?” and thought of calling (the salon) Bangs. But they’d barely let me open it. So, ”Fringe.” And what I do is art, so it’s Fringe Hair Art.
Q: Do you cut your dad’s hair now?
A: I do. He lives in Cambridge, and I go down and cut his hair. He’s very proud of me.