NL recognizes two thriving downtown businesses

Waterhouse Salon owner Rick Waterhouse, center, and Stylist Jason Steele, left, work with patrons at the downtown New London business.
Waterhouse Salon owner Rick Waterhouse, center, and Stylist Jason Steele, left, work with patrons at the downtown New London business. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Two local salons that have thrived in New London for decades were recognized by the New London Economic Development Commission for their longevity and contributions to the economic health of the city. The commission, last month, awarded Nancy's Salon, located at 14 Meridian St., and Waterhouse Salon, at 136 Bank St., certificates of appreciation for their dedication to fostering economic development in the city.The companies were recognized by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and Council President Wade A. Hyslop at the April 21 City Council meeting and given plaques to mark the award.

"These businesses provide continuity and a sense of community to our city. They are among the stalwart enterprises in New London," Economic Development Commission Chair Elaine Stattler said in a statement.

Nancy's Salon has been an institution in the Whaling City since the early 1980s and Waterhouse Salon since the early 1990s.

Nancy Hennegan, owner of Nancy's Salon, attributed her business's longevity to a staff that constantly innovates to better serve its customers.

"If you stay passionate about your business, have caring employees, provide outstanding customer service, and reinvent yourself with new offerings, new techniques, and education, you can weather any economic storm," Hennegan said.

The Nancy's Salon building was built in the 1920s and is decorated in a classic art deco style. Before Hennegan bought it in 1981, the building was home to a salon called the Beauty Box, which was one of three salons on the short Meridian Street.

After purchasing the building almost sight unseen, Hennegan said she was astounded by the traditional art deco decor of the salon. Determined to maintain the historic character of the space, she invited some friends over, provided the beer, and the group got to work sprucing the salon up.

"I took down the blinds and I opened up a piece of history. I was determined to keep the shop as it was," she said. "Aside from refinishing the wood, painting the walls and reassembling the unique booths that were popular in 1920s and 30s, the original decor remains intact."

Nancy's Salon was also a starting point for Rick Waterhouse, who worked there as a stylist until opening his own Waterhouse Salon at 136 Bank Street 23 years ago.

Waterhouse attributes the success of his salon to his staff and the trust customers have in them.

"My staff and I never look at a customer as 'just a hair cut.' We understand how much a good cut and styling means to a customer. It represents how they go out into the world and how they will be perceived by others," Waterhouse said.

But he also credits the city of New London for giving him a start in the business when he was just a teenager and helping him grow his salon into a successful, longlasting business.

"When I moved to New London from Maine at age 19, I had just a couple of dollars in my pocket. I had no job, no car and I existed on Ramen noodles," Waterhouse said. "But New London was very, very good to me and embraced me from the start. I always felt that this community was behind me and wanted me to succeed."

Hennegan, too, said the New London community has been integral in sustaining her business.

Both salon owners said they recognize that as part of the larger downtown community, they can be role models and help support other downtown businesses.

"A client who visits my salon will most likely visit another nearby store or restaurant because once they have ventured downtown, it is enjoyable to stay for a while," Waterhouse said. "Business owners who have been here a long time understand the need to sustain each other and work together. That is what makes it viable to remain here and thrive."

C.YOUNG@THEDAY.COM

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