The Hair Place celebrates 40 years

Amidst snipping scissors and hair dryers' humming Saturday, Betty Cabral celebrated the 40th anniversary of her salon, The Hair Place.

Throughout the day, Cabral greeted a continuous stream of people stopping in to offer their congratulations.

"I'm the hostess today," Cabral said, smiling, as she warmly hugged a long-time customer, who walked in the door with a plate of homemade treats to add to the already abundant table of party foods.

Carlo Palmer, Betty's brother, was on hand to help coordinate the day's festivities since, along with the anniversary celebration, many clients were there for their weekly hair appointment, too.

A native of Westport, Cabral not only has roots in this community, but for the past four decades, she has also established strong professional connections with everyone involved in her business.

She and her husband, Joe, opened the hair salon, then called Edie Adams Cut & Curl, on Oct. 20, 1969. The couple met while studying at Central Connecticut State College in 1963 and were married shortly there after. For several years, they enjoyed working in Fairfield County as educators -- Joe taught fifth grade in Wilton and Betty, a business major, instructed teens in business courses, including accounting, bookkeeping, shorthand and typing, at Rippowam High School in Stamford.

"However, with Joe and I working our two jobs and trying to save money to start a family, we began looking for a franchise to operate as an investment," Cabral said. "Then we hit upon this. What both Joe and I liked is that we could come in and run the place but we didn't have to be hairdressers."

In the beginning, Betty worked only part-time because she wanted to spend time at home raising their two children, Susan and Kevin.

"They were always here when I was, too," Cabral recalled. "We all helped out."

In 1979, the couple discontinued operating the hair salon as a franchise and renamed their independently owned business, The Hair Place.

For loyal customers, such as Stella Capiris, the Cabral's salon had become the place to go for affordable styling with competent professionals.

A resident of Westport, Capiris noted that she made her first hair appointment during the business' first week of operation.

"I fell in love with Joe," she admitted. "He made me feel so welcome. I immediately felt like family, and I thought, `This is the place for me.' "

Cabral agreed. "We are family here."

And, although she is undoubtedly close to her clients, Cabral is also blessed to have a group of loyal stylists working for her.

"I have the best, most loyal and highly experienced staff that's been with me for so many years," Cabral said.

Lynn Bazyk joined the salon after graduating from hair dressing school 33 years ago, Cabral noted.

Karen Restuccia, of Norwalk, said that she started working with Betty at the age of 18.

"I've now been here 27 years and I hope to be here for another 27," she said.

Other full-time staff members are Roxanne Wakeman, Mickey Sutay-Comers and Nancy Chitwood.

The Hair Place also employs several former owners and operators from popular Westport hair salons that have closed. These opted to retire but continue to service their dedicated clients at The Hair Place on a part-time basis.

They are Vasil Batsu, former owner of Maurice George for 30 years, and Frank Migliarese and Ralph Palumbo, former partners of the Village Coiffures for 35 years.

Two stylists, Simela Kastanaras (also called "Sally" or "Melly") and Sandy Hroncheck, also from the Village Coiffures, are part-time independent operators at The Hair Place.

Elaine Fiorina, a former resident of Westport, now drives from Hartsdale, N.Y., to keep her standing appointment with Batsu every Saturday. "I followed him here," she said.

Capiris, too, praises all of the salon's stylists, saying that "they are very accommodating."

"Every week when I come in, the hair is done just right," Capiris said. "They are all nice people, too. I'm happy for Betty because she is a sincere, good person."

Along with her close-knit family, all of the friends that Cabral met through her Post Road business rallied around the family when Joe was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1983. He passed away 10 months later. In a state of shock, Betty's mother, Rose Pagliaro Palmer, had a sudden massive stroke the next morning and also died.

Grief-stricken, Cabral took the helm of The Hair Place and began managing the business full-time.

With her children grown -- Susan is now 41 and Kevin is 39 -- and a grandmother of six, Cabral is still working full-time behind the desk at The Hair Place. As it did 40 years ago, the salon continues to offer affordable, professional hair services to people of all ages.

"Our customers cut across all lines," Cabral said. "We have customers who are here to get their first hair cut and they could barely walk. A few weeks ago we had a party here to celebrate the 107th birthday of one of our clients."

Cabral noted that Loretta Olsen, 107, comes into The Hair Place every Friday with her daughter, Muriel Durner.

"It's nice because we really get to know everyone," Cabral said.