ARDMORE–Tucked into an unassuming storefront on E. County Line Avenue in Ardmore is a small salon with a long history. Joyce's has been doling out cuts and colors for 42 years now, and some of the salon's clients have been coming for just as long, or longer.
Joyce Goldhahn, of Broomall, the salon's original owner, worked side-by-side in the salon with her daughter, Kathy DiMario, also from Broomall, for 29 years before retiring in December of 2011. The pair met with Patch recently to talk about the salon's beginnings, their experience working together, and what the future holds.
In 1970, Goldhahn was a single mom in her mid-20s, working at a hair salon in Philadelphia. When her brother-in-law decided that year to sell his building at 2608 E. County Line Road, Goldhahn resolved to start her own salon.
"It just sounded like a great opportunity," she recalled.
Without enough funds for the investment, however, Goldhahn had to find someone who would lend her the cash.
"I borrowed the money from my mother," Goldhahn explained, chuckling. "I paid her back $20 each week."
It took two and a half years for Goldhahn to pay off the initial $2,500 investment, and she's been renting at the same location ever since—for more than 40 years.
Back then, the neighborhood was different, DiMario said. "It was a little Italian neighborhood, older, and the clientele was different back then too: it was weekly ladies, wash and sets," she explained. "Sometimes we'd set the hair with beer."
While DiMario didn't have any interest in joining the family business until after she finished her associate's degree, she did get a taste of salon work very early on.
"Oh, I was so bad," Goldhahn laughed. "I would make her take off from school to shampoo for me sometimes if I was stuck."
"And I liked it, you know," DiMario said. "I'd make 50 cents for shampooing hair back then, when I was 10 years old … but it wasn't until after a couple years of college I decided I wanted to be a hair dresser."
Like Mother, Like Daughter
The pair was never nervous about working together, they said.
"I was frustrated in the beginning, though," DiMario said. "I would have like two clients, so I thought, 'What did I do this for?'"
"She used to call them 'Donut Days' because she would see so few clients," Goldhahn said. "I wasn't worried though—it takes a couple years to get established."
Joyce's has a very loyal following, and the business has grown and become successful mainly through word of mouth. DiMario mentioned one client whose daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter all get their hair done at the salon. The wife of Milton Shapp, the 40th governor of Pennsylvania, was also a frequent customer. Another woman has been coming to Goldhahn for longer than the salon has been open—she was a client of Goldhahn's at her previous salon job.
"Our clientele are very nice people. They liken this place to Cheers, the feel, you know. … We're very lucky, because it's not a glitzy salon, but we're very successful within this little community group," Goldhahn said.
The hairstyles, of course, have changed since 1970. For some of the older clientele, updating their styles has been something of a battle.
"From teasing hair to the ceiling, to the styles now—it was hard convincing some of my ladies to come down and get natural looking," Goldhahn said. "Some of the older people aren't used to touching their hair all week. They don't have a comb, some of them don't have shampoo."
"But you had a great way of modernizing them," DiMario told her mom. "There's a handful that won't change, but with your sense of style… they look sharp."
A New Phase
Goldhahn retired on Dec. 31 of last year, a change she was ready for, but one that was also emotional.
After 29 years of working side-by-side with her daughter, "When I retired, I was a little bit depressed, because we were so close," Goldhahn said.
"We would see each other all the time," DiMario said. "And now that she's gone, there's the element of it that's like—the voice of reason is gone here. It's a tough act to follow. … There's a saying that Christians use, 'WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?' Ours is, What Would Joyce Do?"
DiMario officially took the reins as owner when Goldhahn retired. The transition hasn't been too difficult, but her mom's clients definitely miss her.
"Every day, every person asks, "How's your mother, what's she doing?"—I might see 25 people, and that seems to be the topic of conversation."
While DiMario has made a few changes, like shortening the original name "Joyce's Hair Fashions" to plain "Joyce's," the salon won't become "Kathy's" anytime soon.
In the back of my head, it's always Joyce's," DiMario said. "It's been that way for so many years."
For more information about Joyce's, visit the salon website.
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