Kathy Chisholm took over the running of The Cutting Crew in November 2020, following the death of her boss and previous owner, Andrew Wilkinson.
Despite being ‘overwhelmed’ at becoming the new owner of what is claimed to be Sheffield’s oldest barber shop, she saw an opportunity to make some changes that would ‘give back a little bit’ to the community.
Kathy said: “A few students were coming in quite anxious. Some had not been out of their student accommodation in a year. My son is autistic and works at Heeley City Farm. In lockdown, it was trying to keep him busy.
“I realised we could do something here. I’d not heard of someone doing it - a quiet environment, no bright lights. I thought, we’ve got to do something about it.”
An advert was placed on Facebook about the new venture and customers quickly showed an interest, with appointments being made for children, adults and pensioners alike.
Kathy told how some customers had spoken of being scared to come out since the easing of lockdown, while some were scared of mixing again.
After much positive feedback, she now wants more people to know that such a service exists at the London Road based barber shop.
Kathy, who has worked at The Cutting Crew for 37 years, is not only experienced in cutting hair but also in interacting with individuals with autism and learning disabilities.
Through direct experience with her son and his friends, she understands that there is a wide spectrum.
Kathy explained: “I know how to come down to the right level, to find the right words. I know how they’re feeling and how to be prepared for anything.”
She told how the process can be adapted according to how comfortable a person feels, for example, starting with simply brushing their hair first and getting it cut at the next appointment perhaps.
Kathy added: “People can get familiar with me before I cut their hair.”
She believes it is important to make individuals feel at ease, in order to increase their confidence and gain their trust.
The private salon is a designated quiet area above the barber shop with no music, and fidget spinners are available for customers to help relieve the stress or anxiety they may be feeling whilst getting their haircut.
Although Kathy wants to help those readjust to life coming out of lockdown, she also sees it as an opportunity to help “anybody” who is suffering.
She said: “A lot of people don’t know how people are suffering.”
The Cutting Crew had been serving its loyal customers since 1880 and previous owner Andrew started his career there as a 15-year-old apprentice.
Customers of the new salon have praised Kathy’s new initiative, including Lucy, who said she was “made to feel very welcome” and “would highly recommend this salon to anyone with anxiety who is looking for a quieter salon.”
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