Northgate J.C. Penney stylists partner for new salon

Stylists of the J.C. Penney Salon at Northgate Mall can tell you exactly the day and time they were told the 42-year-old store was closing its doors.

“Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.,” said Penney stylist of 19 years Christine Zaloum, without even pausing to think about it. “We’ll never forget that day and time.”

“We didn’t see it coming,” added salon manager Kim Spence, who’s been with the salon for the past 10 years. “If [Penney] hadn’t closed, none of us would have ever left J.C. Penney.”

But suddenly, the women found themselves out of a job that included benefits, paid vacations and, for some, decades of memories.

After the initial shock waned, six of the longtime stylists regrouped and looked to the future.

Separation was difficult to imagine. Some had worked together in the JCP Salon for 30-plus years, such as Kathy Slaten, a JCP stylist for 32 years, and Susan Burton, 34 years.

“We’ve been through it all,” chuckled Slaten. The over-the-top ’80s styles, each and every change in uniform, multiple store managers, jokes with favorite clients.” She laughed as she remembered once having to roll a perm during a power outage, with a fellow stylist holding up a lighter so she could see.

Having been longtime employees of Penney, each stylist was offered a chair at any of the other nearby store locations: Hamilton Place Mall, Cleveland, Tenn., and Dalton, Ga. But a move like that would mean the risk of losing beloved clients who hail from northern Hamilton County, some of whom have been taking a turn in their chairs for more than 30 years. Clients who literally cried at the idea of losing their favorite stylist.

So the six created their own option by opening a new salon at 5510 Highway 153 in Hixson, calling it Friends Cuttin’ Up.

The stylists walked out of the Penney salon for the final time last Friday and held their grand opening celebration at the new salon the next day, during which 200-plus clients, friends, family and fans came out to celebrate with them.

“I’m ready for a new start. I think this location’s great and it’s going to be a good opportunity,” Spence said.

“Starting something new is scary, but I’m always up for the challenge,” said JCP stylist of 2 years Darline Taylor. “Change is good sometimes.”

Cuttin’ Up with Friends is located at 5510 Highway 153, Suite 198-A and can be reached at 423-362-8100.