Plymouth Harbor residents rely on salon for beauty secrets and friendship.
Nancy Berkely always kept her appointment for every other week at the Plymouth Coiffeur beauty salon.
Even as her Alzheimer’s disease progressed, she still recognized salon owner Wendy Popp
“Wendy would say after she cut her hair, ‘Oh, you look very nice. Have Joe take you out to lunch so people can see it,’ and she would smile,” her husband, Joe Berkely, said. “She knew Wendy, but she didn’t even know me, and I was married to her for 67 years. I thought she ought to remember me at least, but I was tickled she remembered somebody.”
Since his wife's death in December 2012, Berkely still makes regular appointments for himself for haircuts and washes. If he’s feeling, indulgent there might be a manicure or pedicure, although he stresses that there’s never any polish. Of course, it’s also an opportunity for him to catch up with Popp.
“Working here is not even like a job,” Popp said. “We have been around people for so long. It’s an extended family to us. You just can’t help building relationships from seeing so many people for so many years.”
Five years ago Popp, took over ownership of the salon, but she has worked as a hairstylist at Plymouth Harbor for 31 years. She began working for the salon after her mother, Beryl Bardsley read an advertisement about a salon for sale while vacationing in Sarasota with her husband, Raymond, and Popp, from England.
“From an age where I can remember back, I’ve always been around beauty salons,” Popp said. “From my mother driving us to retirement facilities to do hair with a portable dryer at 4 years old.”
With a background in managing a hotel and multiple beauty salons, Bardsley decided to purchase the salon and move to Sarasota with the entire family. Not long after, Popp began attending Sarasota Beauty School and started working with her mother in the shop.
Thirty-one years later Popp works alongside two more hairdressers at Plymouth Coiffeur’s two locations on the campus. One salon is located in the main tower of Plymouth Harbor, and the second is in the Smith Care Center. The full-service salon offers manicures, pedicures, blow-drying, perms and setting curlers to residents exclusively. But Plymouth Coiffeur’s services go beyond the typical salon menu.
Popp and her stylists have made house calls for residents unable to come down to the salon. She’s cut hair for clients laying in bed and sitting in recliners. They’ll even walk them back to their rooms if they need extra help.
“We go above and beyond here. It’s not a normal salon,” said Jaime Cusson, a stylist with Plymouth Coiffeur. “We’ve got a lot of Alzheimer’s patients. Some residents have tried hitting us, and we calm them down. It’s not an everyday salon and we enjoy what we do here.”
The friendship between the salon’s clients and staff goes both ways:
Cusson had been working for the salon for two years when her home caught fire and became unlivable. When the late Bobby Broderick heard about what happened, he pulled the Plymouth Harbor community together to arrange to find Cusson a rental home with furniture for her and her family.
“It made me feel comfortable and reassured,” Cusson said. “It made me feel safe knowing that there are people out there that don’t even know you that step up and just take care of you. We love our people here. That’s why we put 125% in everyday.”
Traditionally, beauty salons have been a place for women to gossip and trade beauty secrets. Although there is plenty of socializing, the gossip is never of the tawdry variety.
"The nice thing is, a lot of beauty shops are all gossip," Popp said. "This beauty shop, well we get a little bit of gossip everyone does, but nothing like that. You would never want someone to overhear anything about a bridge game or something."
Resident Helen Kelly depends on Popp and her staff for a weekly wash and blow dry. She said she looks forward to her
appointments because of the friendliness of the staff. After her hair is done, she says she feels like a new woman.
“I have never witnessed caring like that in any beauty salon I’ve been in. They take care of us,” Kelly said.
Popp recognizes that the salon is different from other beauty shops and has a unique clientele. She takes joy in what she calls “corrupting” residents by encouraging them to splurge on their manicure with pink polish instead of clear or to sit for the blow dry after the wash and rinse.
“I really think that for every aspect of a person, male or female, with aging, they have to look good to feel good,” Popp said.