For hairstylists, the stakes have never been higher.
Highlights, lowlights, balayage, Game of Thrones-inspired braids, and vintage do’s like the victory roll and pageboy curl – every conceivable cut, color and style is now within the realm of the imagination, and within digital reach. Clients fall in love with a look and grab a screenshot with the full expectation that their local stylist can work similar magic.
It’s a challenge that even after three decades in business, Paula Peltier welcomes at her shop, A Cut Above Hair Design LLC on Boston Post Road in Waterford.
When she moved to her current location 11 years ago, Paula took it as an opportunity to re-imagine her business. She brought in staffers who made it a priority to continue developing their artistry. Today, she says, A Cut Above is home to a tight-knit group of knowledge-sharing professionals.
“This team is education-forward,” she says, “They’re excited to be on the cutting edge, and that keeps me totally engaged. Thirty years is a long time to be standing behind a chair,” she says, laughing, “but they’re all really, really good – and great at hairpainting! And again, that goes back to education.”
The salon is bright, organized and beautiful – modern with rustic touches (plus coffee and fresh cookies!). The upper level is home to a suite of massage therapy rooms where three licensed therapists offer a variety of modalities in expert care. The long, warm counters on the main floor are hewn from hemlock that Paula sanded and finished herself. While staff regularly posts styles and cuts to the Facebook page, their skills also are on display in photo-inspiration books in the waiting area.
The hairdressing space is alive with soft conversation and laughter. This welcoming, social vibe is all by design, Paula says.
“The open-concept salon works for us and our clients. We have a lot of people who connect here regularly. I enjoy the interactions. It’s a great community.”
Speaking of community, readers might not recognize Paula’s family from her married name, but she operates another local mainstay, Orsini’s Sausage, started by her grandfather, Matt Orisini, in 1933. The wholesale company was run by her parents until a few years ago, and its longevity is a matter of quality and taste, Paula says, one that isn’t marred by fillers or preservatives.
And yes, the recipe for the sausage is a family secret and it is locked up in a vault – albeit scrawled on a scrap of paper. “They … weren’t big on contracts,” Paula laughs, remembering – “when I took over I got handed a tomato box with a bunch of papers in it.” She pauses. “But my parents bent over backward to help anyone who needed it. The family business made me who I am.”
And family, she says, sustains her. Husband Glenn is the financial director and technical innovator behind the couple’s endeavors; A Cut Above was one of the first in the area to offer online scheduling. Their two (now-grown) daughters had their first jobs at the salon, polishing the chairs Saturday afternoons as their mom swept the floors and closed up shop.
Nowadays, Paula is trying to pace herself as she balances responsibility for the business she founded, and the business founded by her family. She gives herself – at least partial –Saturdays off.
“I’ve always worked Saturdays. Always,” she says, joking, “it turns out there’s a whole world out there!”
A Cut Above is located at 131 Boston Post Road in Waterford, CT, 06385. Call 860-444-6717, or visit www.acutabovehair.com for more information.