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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Woman barber takes over at one of Carlisle's oldest businesses

A woman barber has taken over at one of Carlisle’s longest established businesses.

Michelle Koca photo
Michelle Koca

Michelle Koca has taken over Tommy’s on Lowther Street after owner, Tommy Smith, decided to hang up his clippers and comb after more than 40 years.

Now the business, on the first floor at 6 Lowther Street, is called Shelly’s.

Michelle said: “I was interested in helping Tommy out and heard he was looking for some help as he wasn’t too well, but when I came to see him he said he wanted someone to take over as he wanted to retire.

“I thought all my chickens had hatched and I could not believe what I was hearing.”

Michelle, who is trained in cut throat shaving, took over the business in January but Tommy still helps out on Mondays.

She learnt her trade in Aydin in Turkey but is originally from Carlisle. She said: “Barbering is different to hairdressing. You have to learn how to use clippers and the scissors over comb technique. I also do beard trimming, moustache shaping and design and eyebrow shaping.

“I haven’t started the cut throat shaving yet but I’ve had lots of inquiries about it. I wanted to get myself established first. I have experience cutting men’s and women’s hair but I prefer doing men. It’s more fun.”

Tommy, who has been working as a barber since 1968, said: “I miss the crack and the chat with my regular customers – but there’s more to life than work. I want to spend more time in my garden, walk the Lake District hills and spend time with my grandchildren.

“The city has changed so much since I started out – there are about nine female barbers in the city now.

“English boys don’t want the job. If you go to a bigger city you will see Turkish or Italian boys doing the job but not so many English ones.

“I think cut throat shaving died out when Aids awareness increased. All kinds of health and safety rules were introduced back then but we use disposable blades now.

“I can’t believe how kind some people have been. It was emotional to leave as people have been so generous. I will miss them.”

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