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20 years of hair care and jokes
Cuttin Up to celebrate 20th anniversary Saturday
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The Cuttin Up staff includes (from left) owner Mary Gehler, Jocelyn Bartels, Amanda Stastny, Christy Cole, Liz Hagen, and owners Amber Podstawa and Kathy Austin.

PLATTEVILLE — As the name of a hair salon, the term “Cuttin’ Up” is as natural as the term for constantly making jokes.

Those who go to Cuttin’ Up, A Hair Adventure in downtown Platteville get some of each.

The hair salon is celebrating its 20th anniversary Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m.

The four original owners, including current owners Kathy Austin and Mary Gehler, worked at a hair salon in the former Spurgeon’s in McGregor Plaza. Gehler had been cutting hair for 12 years and Austin for seven.

“Everybody had been a hairdresser for a while,” said Austin. “And then we just decided to start our own. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but if you’re passionate about something … and you can put your own touches on stuff.”

The salon opened March 3, 1993 in the former Junior Concept clothing store.

“I really enjoy people; I enjoy talking to them,” said Austin. “We want to make people feel like they’re part of the family.”

Austin describes their clientele as “everybody,” with an even male–female split, and “a wide variety of ages. You’re trying to please people.”

A person’s appearance, including hair, is obviously personal. That brings a hair stylist into the potential minefield of what the customer wants vs. whether a particular look would be good on a customer.

In the event of a conflict, Austin tells a customer, “Here’s what I’d like you to try,” to steer a customer from bad hair ideas. “Yes, l’d like to make money, but I don’t want to do something that’ll make the client look bad,” she said.

Cuttin’ Up has a number of second-generation customers. The youngest came Friday afternoon, when five-month-old Kendra Clark, the daughter of one of Austin’s customers, came in for a styling. Kendra’s mother, Renee, has been a customer since she was 9.

The salon’s emphasis on one-liners can be found in the wall portraits of such comedians as the Three Stooges and Don Knotts. The back wall of the salon originally had photos of comedians mixed in with photos of the owners.

“We had all these comedians here,” said Austin. “That’s why we called it Cuttin’ Up — double meaning.”

The logical extension of the humor theme is found in the business’ floats during each Dairy Days parade. The float typically will change the name of a popular or classic song to fit a hair theme.

“We go out there and make fools of ourselves because … we do,” said Austin.

Hair care has changed well beyond popular styles during Austin’s career.

“The biggest thing is it’s more color now,” she said. “We did more perms, and the younger girls did more color, and a lot more different colors. It probably made us a little more hip. Back in those days, the only color you did was on older ladies, or maybe some bleach foil.

“We never learned to use clippers, because back in those days barbering was separate.”

The spectrum of available hair care products has grown considerably as well.

“People like variety; people like different smells, or don’t like all that smelly stuff,” said Austin. “There’s usually more than one right answer.”

One difference over time is a decrease in attempts by men to obscure the fact that they’re losing their hair.

“I think guys are getting over that,” said Austin. “I just think it’s more acceptable to be bald now. A lot of younger guys, if they start losing their hair they’ll just shave their heads.”

Cuttin’ Up helps cancer patients who have lost their hair during chemotherapy with wigs. The business also has cut hair for Locks for Love donations.

Austin’s daughter, Amber Podstawa, bought into the business in 2009. Podstawa worked at the salon while in high school, and decided after a year in college that hair-styling was the career she wanted.

“You just have to do what makes you happy; it doesn’t matter what your title is,” said Austin. “Hairdressing is important when your customers talk to you.”

The business now has four employees in addition to the three co-owners.

Cuttin’ Up branched out into other areas in an unusual fashion. As Austin tells it, “I went on vacation, and when I came back I found out we had bought a tanning salon.”

The other owners purchased a tanning, massage, weight loss and aerobics business they called “The Body Shoppe” on the opposite side of Main Street. After two years, the owners decided to discontinue the weight loss and aerobics portions of the business and merge the tanning and massage parts of the business into Cuttin’ Up.

The salon also does pedicures and waxing. The business has grown to the point where it takes up the entire first floor and pushed its offices into the basement.

“I think we’re pretty satisfied” with the breadth of their services, said Austin. “We don’t really have room for anything else.”