Next month Leslie Tooley celebrates 30 years as proprietor of Reepham Hair Studio on Townsend Corner.
Born and bred in Reepham, Mr Tooley served his three-year apprenticeship at the renowned Nigel Alexandre salon in London Street, Norwich, where he started on a weekly salary of 10 shillings (around £7 in current value), while having to spend more than seven shillings a week on bus fares.
During his apprenticeship he worked long hours – 5½ days a week – training one afternoon and one evening each week. After gaining a City & Guilds qualification, he worked as a stylist for various Nigel Alexandre salons in and around Norwich.
But after several years and a lot of daily travelling he decided he wanted to work in his home town, initially at Ardan hairdressers in Back Street (where Reepham Print Services are now), before an opportunity arose to rent part of the newly constructed units on Townsend Corner.
Over the years the salon has been gradually extended to provide more space and has housed Sophysical Sports Therapy for the past three years.
Reepham Hair Studio’s opening hours are: Monday–Wednesday and Friday 9 am – 5 pm; Thursday 9 am – 7 pm; and Saturday 8 am – 3 pm. (Mr Tooley explained that his was the first shop in Reepham to stop closing on Thursday afternoon.) The ground-floor salon has disabled access and a disabled-friendly toilet.
The salon currently has two employees – Nicola and Charley, who have been working at Reepham Hair Studio for more than eight years. All salon staff continue to augment their training by attending numerous courses by such leading stylists as Toni & Guy.
Mr Tooley noted that as well as hairstyles changing over the years, one of the biggest shifts has been from perms to hair colouring. He added that it is harder to recruit staff these days because colleges have cut back on their budgets, with fewer young people entering the profession.
“As a hair stylist dealing with people all day you have to be able to keep up a conversation and to listen. You also have to be able to speak with customers in confidence – and to be diplomatic at times.”
Although there are now three hairdressers in Reepham, it is evident that the town is not as busy as it was 30 years ago, he remarked.
“Overall footfall has definitely gone down, especially over the past couple of years; I can’t see it getting any better,” said Mr Tooley. “As well as the growth in online shopping, supermarkets now sell just about anything.
“Cities like Norwich are getting busier to the detriment of smaller towns and there are now business parks springing up all over, especially in urban areas.
“There were six grocery stores in the town 30 years ago; people used to come to Reepham for the shops. The closure of the bank two years ago has been a big blow.”
As well as running a key business in Reepham, in his spare time Mr Tooley has been a scout leader for more than 40 years; he is currently group scout leader at 2nd Reepham Scout Group.
He is also a member of Reepham Chamber of Commerce and was involved with the former Reepham Spectacular, which used to be held in Rookery Meadow every September (a forerunner of the present music festival), and he was also on the carnival committee.
Mr Tooley sincerely thanks all his loyal customers over the years, and also all past and current employees. “My very first customer 30 years ago still comes in regularly!” he said.
Reepham Hair Studio will be holding a special birthday celebration week from 22-27 May, where there will be special offers as well as a glass of sparkling wine and a slice of cake for all customers.
- Reepham Hair Studio, Townsend Corner, Reepham NR10 4LD. Tel: 01603 872128.