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Polis Report

Shear Idiocy

By Richard Sine

Small barbershops have a character just like their owners, and it would be a pity to see them go the way of the soda jerk and the five-and-dime. Last month the San Jose Mercury News ran a bright little item that chirped, "It's going to get easier to get clipped around here." A national chain named Great Clips, which now has six stores in the county, announced plans to open 30 stores here within five years. The Bay Area, a Great Clips spokesidiot beamed, "presents a wonderful opportunity because it is under-chained."

At least when it comes to hair salons. The story said that 85 percent of the hair-care business goes to mom-and-pop shops, "but the chains are growing."

The proliferation of fast-hair chains is bad news for folks like my barber. He would probably be offended if you called him a "hairstylist." With Playboys on the magazine stand and Norman Rockwells on the wall, he's run his shop for 30 years, watched neighborhood kids mature and waves of immigrants come and go.

A good hairstylist is an accomplished craftsperson, and a beauty salon is one of the few remaining ways creative people without much capital or education can open their own business.

To prepare for its growth spurt, Great Clips has opened its own hairstylist training center in Newark. Sort of like McDonald's Hamburger University, I imagine. How much individual style--and how much small-business acumen--do you figure is being taught at the School of Great Clips?

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From the September 5-11, 1996 issue of Metro

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