NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> After 40 years of styling hair in Newtown, Joy Taggart is hanging up her scissors.
At the end of business on Dec. 31, Taggart will close her Head Quarters Personal Hair Design and prepare for the next phase of her life - retirement.
Taggart will be moving to Florida’s Gulf Coast in 2020 to enjoy a well earned relaxing, fun in the sun retirement after four decades of styling and cutting hair in Newtown.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying the warm weather and the beach,” said Taggart, who also hopes to find a part-time job working with animals, her other passion in life. “I just want to spend the next 20 years or so enjoying the sun and not having to stand on my feet all the time.”
Taggart grew up in Shenandoah in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region where both her grandfathers worked in the mines.
After graduating from vocational school with a cosmetology license in 1972 and living briefly in Reading, she moved to Bucks County in the mid 1970s and found a job at Village Cuts Salon inside the former post office building in Langhorne Borough.
In 1979, after four years with Village Cuts, she ventured out on her own, opening up Head Quarters Personal Hair Design on Dec. 17, 1979, in what was then a single family home at 226 South State Street in Newtown.
Newtown was a very different place in those days, not far removed from its agricultural roots and just on the cusp of a major development boom that would change the face of the greater Newtown area with sprawling housing developments and shopping centers.
Taggart recalled that she initially planned to market her new business as a "unisex" salon, but was discouraged by the town leaders at the time from using the "unisex" term. She heeded their advice and for the next four decades became a borough fixture at her cute little boutique salon on South State Street.
Joy, who lives up to her name in so many ways, brought a simple philosophy to the business - quality service, a focus on people and “being the hair.
“A good hairstylist needs to be the hair and work with each individual client,” said Taggart. “As my mom said, ‘You better learn how to cut hair.’ And that is it. Cutting hair for that individual ... It’s what looks best with their facial shape and how their hair lays.
“I also always said it’s not the hair business. It’s the people business,” said Taggart. “You can give a great hair cut and send them back for a shampoo, but if you’re not giving them your heart you’re not going to keep your business.”
Joy often went the extra mile for her clients. She had one client whose mother was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Joy personally went to her house and cut her hair at bedside “until there were no muscles left in her body.” That same client flew her out to South Carolina to style her daughter’s hair for her wedding.
Joy also made it her goal to mentor as many young hair stylists as she could over the years. And many of them have come back over the past few weeks to wish her well and to express their thanks.
“I was a little tough,” admits Taggart. “But they said, ‘You know what? Being young like we were, we needed that.’ Now it’s coming all back that they all benefited from it, which makes me extremely happy.”
Over the past 40 years, Taggart said hairstyling has changed dramatically thanks to people like Vidal Sassoon - her idol and mentor - who took women away from setting their hair and teasing it up to beautiful, loose geometric haircuts - the art of hair cutting.
“Before it was hairdressing. We dressed the hair up in curls and teased it. We had beehives, the bouffant and flips. That’s what I started with,” said Taggart. “But Mr. Sassoon taught hair dressers how to do hair as an art. He is my mentor of all time. He has trained amazing hair designers to go out and teach. I used to teach on stage with some of them,” she said. “There are amazing people out there who have set the bar in hair cutting and coloring.”
When asked how many cuts she has given over the last 40 years, Taggart struggles for a number.
“Oh my gosh. Through the years. It’s so hard to put a number on it. For how many clients I have, they come every six weeks. Some men come every three weeks. Should I say a million in 40 years? Plus, before I started cutting I shampooed. I set the lady’s hair when they had big dos. I brushed them out.”
Since her retirement announcement this past fall, Taggart said she’s been overwhelmed with well wishes, gifts, notes, cards and so many hugs she has lost count.
“It’s amazing. I feel like I did a good job, but not as much as what they are saying,” she said humbly. “Years ago Sally Fields was in the Oscars and she said, ‘I can’t believe you like me. You really, really like me.’ That’s what I feel like. Everybody is saying, ‘Joy, you have touched so many lives.’ I’ve been with my clients through their marriages, their divorces, their births, their grand babies. Everything,” she said. “And I guess I have. I’m glad I had that impact.”
In addition to closing her business, Taggart is in the process of selling her beloved Head Quarters building to a local barber.
The building dates back to 1860 when it served as a carriage house. It later became a residence and in 1979 became Head Quarters.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Taggart, of having to part which such a treasure. “People love this little building. I love this little building. People ask me what am I going to decorate now because I decorate this building like crazy. I loved doing it, but I feel good old Head Quarters gave me a good 40 years and I’m ready to pass it on. I’ve taken care of her to the max.”
While she will soon be relocating to the Sunshine State, Newtown will always hold a very special place in her heart.
“Newtown did great for me,” said Taggart. “It’s a lovely, lovely town. The building that’s happening now, I just hope it stays at a point where it’s not out of hand. But Newtown, for my 40 years, has been a lot of lovely people. I’ve loved the people, the shops, the restaurants, the beautiful farmland, the old houses, the warmth of everyone. Newtown has been here for me.”
So what’s her last day going to be like?
“I love cutting hair, but on my last day I think I’m going to feel relief. I’m going to thank God for getting me through these past 40 years,” she said.
“It was a really good ride. And I’m so proud of the many people I’ve touched who have come through here,” said Taggart. “My name may be Head Quarters, but all their names are underneath for helping out and doing their very best,” she said of her staff. “And my clients, they have been dedicated, faithful and loving. I always told my employees to treat their customers like gold, because they are.”