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Main Line Hair Salon Set Down Roots in Cinnaminson 40-Plus Years Ago

John Melchiorre, hairstylist and businessman, has been washing, cutting and styling the locals for decades.

 

It was an era when men would welcome an hour-long refuge from the world by smoking cigarettes, yakking politics or viewing the men's glossies, all while waiting their turn for the barber chair, remembers Main Line Hair Salon owner John Melchiorre, 62, of the years his dad owned a barbershop in Philadelphia.

“My father used to stand on milk crates to cut hair,” Melchiorre says, chuckling. “It was a very different time.”

Indeed. Melchiorre’s father, a first-generation Italian in Philadelphia began cutting hair in 1914 in a neighborhood shop at 5th and Cambria streets. 

When Melchiorre was 13, he started spending more time in his dad’s shop and learned how to cut hair. Growing up, his family lived in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia. By 17, he had begun an apprenticeship. 

Two years later, in 1969, and about a mile from where his salon is today, he opened his own shop in the Main Line Shopping Center with 13 associates, who gave wash-and-sets with holding gels, a throwback to a time when women had standing appointments. 

Melchiorre still lives in Mount Laurel with his family, where he settled in 1978.

He stayed in the mall where Penn Fruit was the chief supermarket, where the five-and-dime store W.T. Grant’s sold things called sundries, and where parents bought their kids their first-day-of-school shoes at Shoe Town.

In 2000, an opportunity arose to buy the 200-year-old building that houses his salon, and which sits on the roundabout at Route 130 North and Highland Avenue. After 13 months of remodeling, he opened his family friendly salon, which is now next to the tall iron fence that wraps around the Siena condominiums. Melchiorre says the building was previously owned for many years by a local family, and it used to be a stagecoach stop.

“People would stop here when they would make the long ride from New York City to Philadelphia.”  

These days, Melchiorre is the sole male among a sanctuary of six female operators, who cut, curl and primp clients' heads Monday through Saturday. 

On this afternoon, a young woman was having her hair lightened, sitting with foils (starting at $45) pointing out from the top of her scalp. Another lady had her hair set in tiny rollers. A male client, one of many, according to Melchiorre, had just received a trim. (Women's cuts start at $22, men's at $15.)

Time spent under dome-like dryers has been mostly replaced with the constant hum of hand-held dryers.

Smooth, sleek hair is pulled straight with metallic flat irons.

“I can also remember when everyone wanted a perm,” says Melchiorre, whose customers make appointments, but his salon also services daily walk-ins. “We would do about 1,000 perms a year. That stopped about seven years ago. Maybe, we do a couple a month now.”

Just like the weather, hairstyles are unpredictable: About five years ago everyone wanted short hair, says Melchiorre. 

“Now, the style is longer,” says Melchiorre. “But after about five or six months, they’ll get tired of it.”

Stephen Melchiorre January 29, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Congratulations Dad! I can't recall any time we have been out together somewhere where we have not run into one of your long time regulars that always has a story to tell about the barber shop. Generations have brought their children there for a first hair cut, and now their children have become regulars. This is one of the few places left in the world where you can come in and truly be who you are. You are guaranteed to hear a good joke, or a funny one liner. Congrats Dad! - Steve
Skitch January 31, 2013 at 03:53 AM
The grocery store where the Cort Furniture rental is now used to be an A&P store if I am not mistaken. There was the old Shop Rite, the old Acme, the Shop in Bag (same owner as the new Shop Rite). Does anyone remember the old Main Line Deli? I sure miss those types of businesses around here. I also miss Hillers Meat Market. There you go, there is an idea for the property on Willow and 130. A meat market.
Skitch January 31, 2013 at 04:19 AM
I have lived here 52 years and I have seen a lot of changes around here. Not all are bad but keep in mind that the times have also changed. Cinnaminson was a great town to grow up in. It still is when compared to other towns. I moved away for a year after getting married but came back to raise my children here. I would do it all over again the same way if I had too. You can all complain about the high taxes (as I do) but there is nothing keeping you here or me. If you think the grass is greener somewhere else then go. I happen to like it here. You get what you pay for. If you don't like what is happening around town, stop whining and get involved. Especially you John. However I suspect for most of you complainers if you moved somewhere else you would also complain about the new town's taxes after a time.
Cindy Pierson January 31, 2013 at 04:40 AM
I don't want to take away from the Mainline Hair Salon story more than I already have - so I guess I'll have to do a blog post specifically for strolling down memory lane - Watch for it!
Chris January 31, 2013 at 02:55 PM
We can discuss anything we want whether it off track or not. Whether its related or not we can discuss. Only you are complaning.

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