by Len Lear
Not too many businesses in the area can claim a 100-year history with four generations of the same family, but one that can is Salon 90 at Nicholas & David, 90 Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill, now operated by Cynthia D’Amico, 47, the fourth generation hair stylist in the D’Amico family to make both women and men look their absolute best. If you walk to the back end of the Chestnut Hill salon, you’ll see photographs of Cynthia D’Amico as well as her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, representing one century of hair artistry.
“We have clients now whose grandmothers came to my grandfather to have their hair done,” said Cynthia, who grew up in Erdenheim and graduated from Springfield Township High School. “My grandfather ran Nicholas’ Hair Styling salon in Mt. Airy but moved here to Chestnut Hill in 1968, when the salon became Nicholas and David Hairstyling.”
Cynthia, whose great-grandfather, Natale, had a barber shop in Old City in the 1920s, trained with her father, David, and grandfather, Nicholas, and then apprenticed at prestigious salons in Paris and London and at Salon Antoine in Haverford. She returned to Chestnut Hill and worked with her dad for about a year when David was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. About eight months later, he died in June of 2004 at the age of 61. (David was a super-nice guy whom I had interviewed twice and who always looked healthy and fit, so what happened to him was a shock.)
“For eight months we took care of him,” said Cynthia. “He was living upstairs, and I took over all of his customers. That was the hardest thing I have ever done.” With the heartbreaking news of her father’s passing, Cynthia took over the family business to honor her father’s legacy.
“I just knew that this was what I wanted to do,” D’Amico said. “I was always really good at hair, and I loved fashion and makeup. If I had a Barbie doll, I’d cut all her hair off. I was just sort of a natural. It was second nature to me … As a business owner, I’m not too strict, but I run a tight ship. This is my home; I own the building, so I can make my own decisions. I only hire people who are kind and who are true artists. Most have college degrees. There is no gossip here.
“My hairstyling knowledge came from all different people and places, but my father and grandfather taught me how to run a business. That was important because I knew that I wanted to be my own boss. My mom ran the books after my grandfather stopped, so my mom taught me how to do the bookkeeping and how to deal with money.”
Like every other salon in the Delaware Valley, Salon 90 was closed for more than three months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The salons in the city were allowed to open June 26 with masks and social distancing. Cynthia also put up partitions between chairs and requires that customers wait out back in a courtyard or in their cars until they are called.
“Everybody has been compliant, and nobody has complained,” said Cynthia. “It feels like we never stopped. A couple customers were nervous about being in the shop with other customers, so I came in at 7 a.m. to take care of them, although we normally open at 9 a.m. Another option is to do their hair in the back courtyard. All of our customers and our five stylists are back, so we all feel much better now. We are booked solid until the end of July.”
About half of Cynthia’s customers are men. She has also done wigs for cancer patients who lost their hair because of chemotherapy treatments. And they do all hair and facial waxing, hair care therapies and haircuts, everything from color highlighting to balayage. (“Balayage” is a French word meaning “to sweep or to paint.” In a hair salon however, the word represents a technique involving hand-painting hair in a sweeping motion with a brush. This allows for a sun-kissed, natural looking hair color.)
For more information: Salon90.net or 215-242-2888. Meredith Bernstein contributed to this article. You can reach Len Lear at email@example.com
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