Clients of the House of Lance Salon in Springfield spent their New Year's Eve day saying farewell to an old friend.
The salon, in the Cardinal Forest Shopping Center at the intersection of Old Keene Mill and Rolling roads, closed on Saturday, ending more than 30 years of business providing "distinguished ladies" with their weekly shampoo and set hair styles.
"The owner didn't get a new lease," said hair stylist Pat Singleton, who has worked at the salon for 23 of its 38 years. "She's waiting to see if Giant wants the property."
Located in the same shopping plaza as the grocery store, a CVS, Dollar Tree and dry cleaner's among other businesses, the House of Lance provided a convenient place for women to stop and have their hair done while running other errands, she said.
"It was a shock to all of us," Singleton said. When the announcement was made in late November, the hairdressers began looking for new places to work and filling in their customers on what was happening.
"This is a very sad day for everybody," she said. "This last week has almost been business as usual, but we had a buffet last weekend for us and our customers to say goodbye."
CATERING TO a clientele of women over 65, many of whom have been making routine stops at the salon during the same day and time for years, Singleton said the services provided at the salon aren't typically found at many of the chain hair salons in the area.
"Most places are blow dry salons, whereas we cater to the shampoo and set," she said.
After a generation of working in the same place, Singleton said it's been difficult preparing to move into a new position.
"We'll miss each other and each other's customers because you get used to seeing them all the time," Singleton said. "We'll be visiting each other at our new salons because we're all good friends here."
A newer customer, Judy Meyer has been visiting the House of Lance for three years after bringing her mother to the salon.
"I work at the church right here, so it's been very convenient," said Meyer.
The women who work at the salon have become "just like a little family" to Meyer. When her mother was alive, the women would "bend over backwards to make her feel cared for," something she continues to appreciate.
She didn't have an appointment Saturday morning, but "just wanted to come in and give the ladies a hug."
Now that the salon is closing, Meyer said she plans to make appointments with Cindy Samay for manicures and pedicures once she finds a new business. "Cindy gives the best manicure and pedicure I've ever had," Meyer said.
Once voted the best hairdresser in Springfield, Hilary Payne said she's going to miss the customers that have become her second family at the House of Lance.
"The customers were shocked and horrified when we told them we were closing," Payne said between clients. "Most of them came with me when I transferred here from the other [House of Lance] salon in Ravensworth. We'll just have to get used to a new place," she said.
The first House of Lance salon was in Ravensworth, Payne said, adding that the one in Springfield opened two years later in the late 1960s. Many of the hairdressers in the Ravensworth location moved to Springfield and have been there ever since, making the closing of the salon even more difficult and sad.
"We've spent so much time together," she said. "We've always had such good conversations working here."
EACH OF the hairdressers brought their own personalities and quirks to the salon, from Payne's learning center with a globe, encyclopedia and dictionary, to the customers' stories about their children and grandchildren.
"Hilary knows more about the history of the U.S. than a lot of citizens," said longtime client Ramona Painter. "Not only is she a good hairdresser, she's a good friend."
The makeup of the hairdressers is a cross-section of the changing community, said Thery MacBrayne.
"Hilary and I tease each other all the time," said MacBrayne, a German immigrant. Payne is originally from England. "We all have a great relationship with each other. This place has all nationalities so we joke a lot together."
After 36 years in the same place, MacBrayne said she'll miss the customers and the camaraderie.
"This is as devastating to the customers as it is to us," she said. "I really like my job ... this last group of hairdressers, we've been together for a long time."
The women all plan to keep in touch, MacBrayne said, and hope to visit each other in their new salons once they're all settled. "We're just like family now after so many years," she said.
A receptionist at the salon for 35 years, Lillian Rose agreed with MacBrayne.
"Working here for so long, you've gotten to know so many people," Rose said. "We know our customers on a first name basis, which made them feel good too."
Rose was "surprised" to learn about the salon closing but said she "knew something was happening" in the months leading up to the decision.
With the salon's closing comes the end of an old fashioned niche, Rose said. "Where do you ever find hairdressers who have worked in the same place for over 30 years?"
Pat Sayles has spent seven years at the salon, making her one of the newer employees.
"Most people have worked here for much longer than me," she said with a smile. "People here are very nice, which makes it more comfortable."
Many of her customers are planning to come with her to her new salon at Kings Park, she said, but not all of them.
"For some it's just too far away," Sayles said. "It's pretty sad to have to say goodbye."
The last day may have been hardest for Cindy Samay, who has owned the salon for the past two years.
"I've grown to love some of the girls," she said. "Some of them, like Pat Singleton, have been incredibly trust worthy, I could leave the shop and know they'd take care of it for me."
She remains hopeful for the future, however.
"I hope the girls get their miracle," she said.