It’s a typical Saturday morning at Scruples Hair Dezine at 18th and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Long-time customer Regina Busby has the first appointment with Janice Shahid, but there are already a half-dozen women in the shop, and all are talking.
Shahid is carrying on the tradition started by her sister, Harriet Patrick, known to all as “Chic,” who passed away at age 70 last fall. The salon Chic started in 1964 has moved through several locations over the years, but customers like Busby, now 68, can remember going to Chic for 50 years.
“My loyalty to Chic was because she was a dear friend and when you’re friends, you’re friends,” she says, her sentiments echoed by those around her. “We’ve been through different hair styles, colors, and whatever’s in.”
The Scruples tradition goes back a long way. Shahid offers a newspaper clipping from the Courier-Journal & Times, which profiled her sister during the shop’s early days. It begins: “Meeting Harriet Coffey for the first time, you may not be much inclined to think of her as a business ‘entrepreneur’ as savvy as any successful, hard-n
osed businessman about such complex things as contracting, merchandising and bookkeeping.”
The article goes on to detail Harriet’s success as age 26, having attended the Kentuckiana Barber and Beauty School and getting a small business loan to buy equipment. Having that kind of business acumen, and the personality to cultivate loyalty from customers, sustained Chic and helped her sustain the business through changing economies, and trends in hair design.
When Chic died, it was clear to all that Scruples would continue. After all, Shahid started working there in 1978, and she says most of the other stylists have been there for decades.
Shahid says there is plenty of “spirit” in the salon, and a reliance on a higher power sustains the business. Gospel music fills the air most of the time that Scruples is open.
“We’re staying the same, the format never changed,” Shahid says. “We will pray and God will send an answer. Through it all, we are surviving.”
For now, one chair serves as a tribute to Chic, while the other seven seats belong to stylists who run their own small businesses. People need an appointment to get a cut, though Shahid accepts some walk-ins. Sometimes, people just want to come in and talk about what’s going on in the neighborhood. And sometimes it’s about what the men are talking about in the barber shop next door.
Shahid sees no end in sight for the shop. She’s now seeing a third generation of women customers, and feels she is carrying on her sister’s legacy. And the gospel music isn’t going to stop playing inside.
“It’s something that I love,” she said. “I grew up in here, this is home.”