Fifty years of shears: Lemay beauty shop a neighborhood institution
David Modglin has been cutting hair for 34 years at his Lemay salon.
In some ways, he's still "the new guy."
Standing off to Modglin's side is Jane Friedman. She's been manning her station for 37 years. Friedman's colleague, Nina McCarthy, first picked up her scissors 54 years ago.
Sitting in the back with her hair freshly dyed is Doris Cocos. She has them all beat.
"I first came here when I was 16," Cocos said. "I'm 73 now."
It's Friday afternoon and Modglin, Cocos and Friedman are going about their business. Their banter is easy, intimate, comfortable.
It's a routine they have down pat after spending decades together.
Mogdlin now owns David's Hair Studio, but he started out there as a wet-behind-the ears beauty school intern in 1977.
That's when the late Lois Coleman dropped by the school to check out the talent.
Coleman, born in 1915, owned the Lemay Beauty Shop.
Ambitious and possessing natural entrepreneurial savvy, Coleman opened it on her own in 1954.
"It was something she always wanted to do," said her son, Dean Coleman.
She was so eager to get started she found a building before she acquired a license to cut hair.
"She apprenticed in her own shop," Dean Coleman said.
Coleman started hiring hair stylists, many of whom would spend their whole careers working for her.
"She was just a good boss," Friedman said, reflecting on almost four decades of cutting hair in the same spot. "A good person."
In more than 50 years of work, Coleman never missed a day,
That doesn't mean she was all business, all the time. Quite the contrary, Red-haired and always well-dressed, she enjoyed cutting loose during off hours.
She insisted on driving Cadillacs. And she had many male admirers.
"Lois turned heads wherever she went," Mogdlin said.
"She was full steam ahead on work and play," Dean Coleman said. "She loved life."
Bernie Wilde counts herself among dozens of members of Coleman's extended 'shop family."
Wilde lives in Arnold these days, but for 27 years she lived two miles from Coleman's beauty shop.
"Everyone was like family to Lois," she said. "She met us, washed our hair and learned about our families."
Like many of the shop's customers, Wilde moved out of the neighborhood.
But she never considered going anywhere else.
To her, the shop is one of the last vestiges of the "old" Lemay.
"It reminds you of the way it used to be," she said. "Lois started it right when women were going to work. And it was right there in the heart of Lemay."
But things change, and age takes its toll. As she approached 90, Coleman was no longer able to run her shop full-time.
Modglin took over the business, renaming it David's Hair Studio and giving it a facelift.
The studio has all the classic beauty shop elements, but is clean and modern.
Aside from the makeover, little else changed.
Modglin, well-tutored in the Lois Coleman School of Business, goes beyond the call of a normal stylist.
When Wilde had her knee replaced in December, Modglin came to Arnold to cut her hair.
But that's nothing out of the ordinary. Housecalls are part of his repertoire.
"We'll go pick up a customer, or take them home," Modglin said. "If we haven't heard from them, we'll call to make sure they are OK. That's what Lois taught us."
Cocos appreciates such attention.
"My husband is disabled and David comes to cut his hair," Cocos said. "I don't know what I'd do without him."
For the last three years, Coleman's health precluded much involvement with the shop.
But her presence remained palpable.
"Her spirit has always been here," Modglin said.
On Feb. 14, the 94-year-old's health began to fail.
Modglin rushed to her bedside.
"After the nurse let me in, I sang her three songs," he said. "I prayed. And at ten after eleven she passed on."
Coleman died of natural causes. Her legion of friends mourned the passing of a woman whose small acts of generosity touched many hearts.
Her philosophy of "business-as-family" lives on in the salon today.
"She was just a very, very good friend," Modglin said. "She touched the lives of so many people who came through here."
"Her business was family and that continues today," Wilde said. "It's the same tradition, with the same little old ladies."