MILFORD — The atmosphere inside the little business Thursday afternoon was convivial, even for a hair salon. There was a breezy back-and-forth between the stylists and customers, borne of years of familiarity.
J&J Hair Fashions has been a fixture in Milford for just shy of 50 years now. Founded by Jennifer McMahan (pronounced with a “mac,” not a “mick”) and Judith Breeding, the salon has gained a loyal following spanning countless hair trends.
But Saturday will be the salon’s final day, said Ms. McMahan, who has run the store by herself since her business partner left six years ago.
“The lease is up and I’m old,” said Ms. McMahan, cracking up. “I guess it was time to say goodbye,” she continued. “I really hate … leaving my customers that I’ve done forever and ever.”
Ms. McMahan decided to start the business with Ms. Breeding after the place where she had worked as a stylist closed. J&J Hair Fashions was first located on Rehoboth Boulevard. That location was open for 33 years. It has been at its current spot at the northern edge of the city for 17.
Previously, the space was home to a cigarette shop; everything had to be torn out and built back up from scratch. Its walls are a pastel pink. The patterned olive chairs backed by hair dryers are vintage, equipped with metal ash trays. That afternoon, a little dog named Tequila with a grumpy visage but a friendly heart, was curled up by the front door in the sun.
Over the years and the generations, the salon has fostered fast friendships. Dawn Hawlk, Ms. McMahan’s daughter and part-time bookkeeper for the salon, had customers at her wedding.
People who got their first haircut at J&J will often bring in their kids, said Gail Burgess, an employee of 33 years.
“They might have moved away but (they’ll say), ‘I got my first haircut from Ms. Jennifer, so I want Ms. Jennifer to do my kid’s first haircut,’” Ms. Burgess said.
Sometimes when customers would get sick, Ms. McMahan and Ms. Burgess would do house calls, Ms. Hawlk said, including at funeral homes and hospice facilities.
“I can remember going to the grocery store and running into customers everywhere we went. Somebody always knew mom,” she said.
Ms. McMahan was quick to handwave attaching too much significance to her and the salon’s place in the community, although both her daughter as well as Ms. Burgess begged to differ.
When the salon closed for six weeks during the pandemic, Ms. McMahan kept paying her employees, Ms. Burgess said.
“She doesn’t give herself a lot of credit,” she said, her eyes welling up. “(The salon is) going to be missed.”
Ms. McMahan said she hasn’t figured out all of her retirement plans just yet. For now, she plans on taking a trip to a place near Chincoteague, Virginia with her camper.