Back in 2006, Susan Wilhite was looking for work and could not find an open chair in New London.
One day, while shopping at a hair product store, she was fortunate enough to receive a lead. Curt’s London Barber was hiring.
Wilhite met with Curt Sommer at his 201 S. Pearl Street location. Sommer had a long talk with Wilhite, until they were acquainted with each other. Then Wilhite spoke with long-time barbers Louise Kabe and Karin Ison. A week later, Sommer invited Wilhite to join the team.
First off, Sommer requested a taper cut.
“Curt drew a picture for me, and, I thought to myself, ‘I could do that.’ Well I could, kind of, but not nearly as good as a trained barber,” Wilhite said.
Taken under wing, she was to watch the barbers at work and observe the techniques of barbering. Kabe has been at Curt’s for 34 years and Ison 24 years.
A student for around two months, Wilhite was ready to fly solo.
“The first time I had to do a flat top, I broke out in a sweat,” Wilhite recalled. “I saw the entire atmosphere at a barber shop is different from a beauty salon. It is a walk-in, laid back atmosphere.”
Wilhite now has eight years experience at Curt’s.
She is spreading her wings now, with a barbershop of her own.
“Curt has wished me well in the business. He sold his building to the city in 2008 and officially retired in 2010, I think. Louise Kabe, Karin Ison and I make a great barbering team. We’re all still together, so it really hasn’t changed the business, just the location,” Wilhite said.
Her new location includes a fourth chair, reserved for a hairdresser – a professional who works with the entire family, offering cuts, perms, etc.
Over the years, younger men have strayed to hair salons for cuts. Barbers nowadays keep up with the new style trends, yet still offer services that an older man desires.
Regular, long-time customers from the Pearl Street location will recognize the mirrors and 1960s barber chairs at the new location. Pictures and certain items from Curt’s are also there.
“If it weren’t for my husband, Donald, I wouldn’t have done this. He had the vision. He’s the one who noticed the ‘for rent’ sign in the window,” Wilhite said. “I just told him what colors I wanted and he went with it. He comes up with original ideas all the time. He tends to use things from his garage. Some of it came in handy here. Donald has really done everything, and all my sons have helped him. My oldest son, Anthony, is an apprentice for Northland Electric. He did much of the electrical and a certified electrician finished up.
“Larry Markman owns the building. He is a wonderful guy. Fantastic. He has helped us out a lot. Among other things, he put in a brand new furnace.”
Markman stops by often and is truly interested.
“He’s really excited about it,” Wilhite said. “He came in when the floor was all jack hammered up to replace the plumbing. His face showed a lot of expression, but he didn’t say a thing.”
The Wilhite’s paid for the plumbing. It worked just fine for any other business, but the state board has regulations for barber and beauty shops.
A bathroom located out back was attached to the building, but not accessible from the shop. With the inner cement block wall knocked down, a shampoo station fits perfectly there. A new bathroom is handicap accessible.
Overall, this is not a new business. It is a new structure. Curt’s London Barbers are going to be at a new location.
“People have been stopping by to wish us well,” Wilhite said. “Our customers at Curt’s are very excited and happy for us.”
New London Barbers is located at 810 N Shawano, across from Bucky’s Restaurant.
The doors will be open for business on Monday, Oct. 27.
Barbershop hours are: Monday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..; Tuesday 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Saturdays, early risers can walk-in anytime after 5:30 a.m., and the shop closes at 2 p.m. The barbershop is closed on Sundays.
For after hour appointments call 920-982-4020.