Down on 'Mane' St. in Fuquay

Triangle treks to town for haircuts

Staff WriterFebruary 24, 2005 

They come from Raleigh, Zebulon, Willow Springs, Garner, Wendell, Knightdale, Angier, Cary and beyond.

Teenagers are looking for the latest highlights. Seniors want their weekly shampoo and set. They're all proof that quantity can mean quality.

With 13 hair salons and barbershops within a two-block radius, downtown Fuquay-Varina is the hair-cutting capital of the Triangle.

A conservative estimate puts the number of stylists operating in town at about 50 -- one for every 160 residents.

"Somebody is going hungry," said local stylist Kenneth Jeffries, wondering how a town of about 8,000 can support this small army of beauticians. "I don't know who feeds all these people."

The answer is that we all do.

Much the way towns become antique or outlet centers, Fuquay has established itself as a really great place to get a haircut.

Make no mistake, it takes more than a pair of scissors to make it in Fuquay. Stylists here let their work speak for itself. There are no attempts to poach customers, nor do many of the shops advertise.

"It's all word of mouth," said Angie Cencelewski, who does nails at Stylistics, down the hall from Stepping Out On Faith Hair Design and across the street from Coleman & Company Hair Designers and Sassy Fox Family Cuts & Curls.

Cencelewski said one reason for all the salons is money. Rents run between $500 and $700 a month, much cheaper than you'd pay out on U.S. 401 where chains like Cost Cutters and Great Clips locate.

Others say Fuquay-Varina residents have long taken extreme pride in their appearance.

"Fuquay-Varina's always had class," said Marie Jeffries, who, with her husband, Kenneth, runs Colonial Barber & Style Shop and Marie's Hairstyling. "They like to look good."

Marie Jeffries, 62, says she styled the town's elite for nearly 25 years before retiring, much to her clients' dismay, several years ago. A trip to the supermarket in Fuquay, she said, can quickly turn into a discussion of who looks the best and who's responsible.

Town officials are at a loss to explain the salon encampment.

"I really don't have the answer to that," said Susan Weis, director of the town's revitalization association and a regular customer of The Hair Gallery.

And while 13 may seem like a staggering number of salons and barbershops for a small town, there once were more.

Debra Stephenson, who has cut hair at Coleman & Company for 16 years, recalls a time when downtown Fuquay had 21 hair-cutting locales within a two-block radius.

The shops' success can largely be attributed to loyal clients. A number of stylists say they set their appointment books just once at the beginning of each year.

Customers have a simple reason for why they keep trekking to Fuquay.

"They're good at what they do," said Cathy Wells, an Angier resident who was visiting Stylistics last week. "I've been in Miami and had somebody ask me, 'Who cut your hair?' "

Julie Lewis, who lives in Garner, was getting her bi-monthly pedicure from Cencelewski last week. She said Cencelewski's refusal to use drills, and the fact that she has a ziplock bag of tools for each client, makes the trip worth it.

"I've never had a fungus," Lewis said.

For those who believe a good haircut requires divine intervention, there's Hair Zone, where stylist Diane Judd attributes her skills and success to God.

"It's been the Lord," she said of her ability to thrive in Fuquay for eight years.

Two blocks down is Mims Barber Shop, which offers customers a haircut, a straight-razor shave and freedom. The shop is also home to Mims Bail Bonds.

"You try and separate yourself from the next shop," manager Chris Mims said.

Staff writer David Bracken can be reached at 829-4548 or dbracken@newsobserver.com.

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