A Cut Above Celebrates 30 Years in Kent
Hair salon first established in early 1970s
Karen Shaw has seen a lot of salon trends come and go from the seats in her shop, A Cut Above, on North Mantua Street.
The 1976 Theodore Roosevelt High School graduate first started working as a stylist — just two days after graduating — for Pat DiMauro at what was then DiMauro's Kut and Kurl.
"Six and a half years later he said he was moving to Dallas, TX, and either I had to find a new job or buy the place," Shaw said. "So I bought the place. And I changed the name so it was the first in the phonebook.
"Basically I've worked here non-stop since 1976," she said.
Of course there was the weekly sit, set and style crowd. And around the same time nail styling started to come into fashion.
While nails remain fashionable, customers started asking for pedicures along the way. The shop flirted with tanning beds briefly before dropping the idea.
Shaw added space for a massage therapist, and waxing worked its way onto the list of services over the years.
People have drifted away from hair sprays, ironing and synthetic products towards naturally based products, gels and mousses.
"Everything goes through cycles," Shaw said. "Perms are starting to come back in. They hadn’t been in for a while. Things used to be flat-iron, now bigger hair is starting to come back in. The eighties are coming back.
"It constantly changes, but as much as it changes there’s always those same fundamental things you learned a long time ago," she said.
While styles and products changed many of Shaw's employees have not.
Carrie Shanley, a fellow graduate of Kent Roosevelt's cosmetology program, will have worked with Shaw for 29 years in May.
The same story goes for many customers, like Pat Shuman.
The Stow resident has been a customer of Shaw's for "at least 15 to 20 years," Shuman said.
"I was very dissatisfied with the girl who had been doing my hair for a while, and my sister in-law somehow discovered A Cut Above," Shuman said. "She must have overheard me complaining about my hair, and she said ‘Well why don’t you try this place.' And I went and never looked back. I’ve been there ever since.
"For women, hair and nails are super important," Shuman said. "And if you can’t find someone to do it exactly the way you want it, you’re not going to stay. Karen does my hair exactly the way I want it."
Add to that the warm and friendly atmosphere — and daily fresh cookies — and most customers tend not to stray.
"I’ve got people who I did when they were a little kid, or before they were even born I did their parents," Shaw said. "And 37 years, now I’m doing their kids. We’re kind of a family around here."
As for the future, Shaw said it looks bright for A Cut Above. At 54, with 37 years experience under her apron, she has no plans to call it quits soon.
"I tease that they’ll bury me with scissors in my hand," she said. "I love what I do, and if I can still stand and do it, I’ll do it. And if people still want me to do it."