Thursday, August 10, 2000

Learning to part with their hair

Hyde Park salon caters to kiddie clients with its videos, decor

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There are fishies on the ceiling and Snow White on the TV. There are pink and blue and yellow balloons. And, over there, three plastic dinosaurs, chairs that are elephants and froggies and horsies, a Bert and Ernie book, and a seal cutting a lion's hair on the wall.

        It's a kids' utopia with its color, characters and splashy drawings.

        But Charlie Phillips, just a tad over 2 years old, sees only one thing: the scissors coming at his blond mop like the menacing jaws of a metallic alligator.


        This is Charlie's first professional haircut, and he couldn't have chosen a more friendly place than Kids Kuts Salon in Hyde Park.

        “Oh, sugar bear,” his mother, Amy of Oakley, soothes him. “Look who is singing on TV!”

        Now Charlie's quietly focused — it's the seven dwarfs, of course, and off to work they go.

        “Such a good boy you are!” Mommy exclaims.

        “They never want to come in here, but then they never want to leave,” says Kids Kuts manager Sarah Eaton as Charlie, now finished with his haircut, goes from the horsey chair to the elephant chair to the frog chair. He is oblivious that Mrs. Eaton has moved on to another customer.

        His enjoyment comes after a rite of passage.

        Charlie's mother was ex pecting him to be all over the place, but except for a few shrieks upon seeing the electric razor and a whole lot of “No, mommy!” Charlie did well.

        “He saw the scissors, he knew what was coming,” his mother says.

        Mrs. Eaton is used to it. She's lost count how of how many years she has cut kids' hair at her Hyde Park Plaza location and she loves it.

        She doesn't just cut hair

        for the tots. Mrs. Eaton and her two colleagues have clients as young as 1 week and as old as 18 years.

        They also cut hair for special-needs children. There are twins, triplets, even quadruplets who come in together. Families come from all over the Tristate, and it shows in the six-week waiting list and the dozens of photographs of customers on the mirror.

        Mrs. Eaton knows all the tricks. An upbeat attitude is the key. To distract the little ones from the scissors chopping away at the back of their heads, she'll put a plastic comb in front of their faces, sliding her fingers along the bristles to make silly noises.

        “It takes some patience and some biting your tongue,” she says.

        The next little one to follow Charlie is Travis Roller, another 2-year-old. This Hyde Park kid is a veteran, but this is the first time he has come with his father, Tracy.

        Travis picks up some cars and trucks and plays with them in the waiting area. Mrs. Eaton has a tractor-trailer video ready for the VCR when Travis mounts the froggy chair.

        “Trucks!” Travis yelps, eyes wide and pointing at the screen. His grandpa owns a dump truck, and he has “millions” of toy dump trucks, bulldozers and backhoes at home, his father says. He loves trucks so much that when he went to River Downs with Dad, the only thing that could grab Travis' attention was the tractor that smoothed the dirt track after every race.

        Mrs. Eaton, 30, has come to plenty of conclusions about kids and haircuts in her time at the salon. For example, the ones that scream the most are boys 15-30 months. And moms put up with crying better than dads, who just want the kid to stop, she says.

        “It's a good place to study child and parent relations,” says Mrs. Eaton's own mom, Jenny Dame, who works as the shop's receptionist.

        Mrs. Dame used to cut her daughter's hair. Her daughter was usually OK, she says, but now Mrs. Eaton looks at pictures of herself and says, “Mom, how could you?”

        Now, Mrs. Dame helps her daughter make these children's haircuts a less traumatic, more memorable experience.

        Parents pitch in, too.

        Mrs. Phillips even tries bribing Charlie with breakfast to make him behave.

        “Pancakes? Eggs?” she pleads.

        “No.” Charlie is putting his foot down.

        “Dinosaurs,” he says, stuffing the gummy animals down his throat.


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