Longtime New London hairdressers reunite as Nancy's merges into Waterhouse Salon
New London — Nearly 40 years ago, Ric Waterhouse got his start in hairdressing working for Nancy Hennegan at Nancy's Salon. Now, they're reunited again — but this time, Hennegan is working at Waterhouse Salon on Bank Street. Waterhouse said they've come full circle.
After operating on Meridian Street adjacent to The Garde Arts Center for 40 years, Hennegan closed up shop and moved with her three stylists and receptionist to Waterhouse Salon, as of Nov. 1.
Hennegan said she was, "ready to get rid of the business part of my life" and looking for more time to golf, do yoga, and travel with her husband. She's not looking to retire yet, but wanted to give up doing payroll and taxes.
She had been trying unsuccessfully to sell her salon to a new owner but continue working there with her staff.
Then, she got to talking to Waterhouse about how he was looking to hire people. He said there's been a "shortage of hairdressers coast to coast" even before the pandemic, and he lost three employees over the course of the pandemic.
So, Waterhouse and Hennegan decided to merge.
"I don't think it was anything either of us set out to do. It kind of happened over a bottle of wine," Waterhouse said. He said it's been an easy transition — which makes sense, considering he said he learned everything he knows at Nancy's.
"Ric and I worked together 39 years ago, so we know each other, and we work with the same philosophy and energy (and) ethics. It's just a matter of learning new products," Hennegan said. Waterhouse said the philosophy they share is that "the definition of a good haircut is a happy customer."
Hennegan brought with her Dawn Piccione, Michelle Henningsen, John Connors and Kathy Salvio, joining Waterhouse along with Jennie Green, Clinton Obrey and Lynn Galluci. Waterhouse said all staff are fully vaccinated. He is still looking for an aesthetician and a nail tech.
Waterhouse and Hennegan said there aren't other changes to operations, with Hennegan commenting, "As at Nancy's, so at Ric's."
From 1930s art deco salon to modern with water views
Hennegan was only the second owner of the salon at 15 Meridian St., known as The Beauty Box. She took over operation of the 1930s art deco salon in 1981, after Eileen Cosgrove and Shirley Page had been operating it for 47 years. She had been a hair stylist at Ben Ramos Hair Design in Mystic and decided she wanted to be her own boss, according to a Dec. 22, 1981, article in The Day.
"I knew that if ever I had my own beauty shop it would have to be this one," Hennegan told The Day at the time. She said her sister, Thames River Greenery owner Charlotte Hennegan, asked why she didn't just walk in and see if they wanted to sell. So she did.
Nancy Hennegan went about painting and stripping wood to restore the original fixtures, reupholstering furniture, and adding period draperies before opening. New London Landmarks gave her an Award of Merit for the work done at the shop.
Waterhouse landed in New London with little money in the early 1980s, after dropping out of college, and used a $2,500 bank loan to go to the former New London Academy of Hairdressing. Hennegan then gave him a chance at her salon, and then Waterhouse opened his Bank Street salon in July 1990.
The New London Economic Development Commission recognized both salons with certificates of appreciation in 2014, for their longevity and fostering economic development.
Now, Hennegan is trying to preserve her salon.
She said when Cosgrove and Page ordered their salon, it came as a kit, from the Chicago-based Emil J. Paidar Company.
"It's got value as a kit and I really don't want to break it up," said Hennegan, who is looking for a buyer to purchase the fixtures. She said it would be ideal if they stayed in downtown New London, but they could move.
She and Waterhouse said anyone interested in buying can call Waterhouse Salon at 860-442-9543.
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