He has owned a CT hair salon for 40 years. Now he gives it to one of his employees.

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It was 1967, the so-called Summer of Love, and across the Atlantic Ocean in England, Christopher Rollins made a decision that would change the rest of his life.

Rollins decided he would become a hairdresser, “instead of going to college, just to keep my parents out,” he said.

Rollins dropped out of school at age 16, dashing his parents’ hopes that he would become a history teacher.

Instead, he landed a job as an apprentice at a salon.

Christopher Rollins outside a hair salon he owned in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven in the early 1980s. The salon then burned down after being struck by lightning.

Contribution photo

“It was a great way to meet girls,” Rollins said.

He came to America in 1977 to work at a Connecticut salon called British Hairways, which included a team of English stylists.

Now, having owned his own salon for nearly 40 years, first in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood and later in Guilford, Rollins is looking to slow down a bit.

“I still love working with clients, but (the) business side made me tired,” he said. “I wanted to distance myself from the pressures of owning the salon. I could have easily sold this to someone, but I wanted the people who have worked for me for so many years to have some stability and not worry about what a new owner might do.

The salon employs about 15 people, according to Rollins.

Time to change

Rollins’ solution was to hand the business over to Carissa Tropiano, a Northford resident who started working for him 25 years ago. Thus, without asking for any payment, he transfers ownership of the salon to him.

The transition will take place on September 7, when the company will take on a new name: Carissa & Co. and move from its second floor in an office complex on Boston Post Road in Guilford to a newly decorated ground floor.

Carrisa & Co. Salon at 1575 Boston Post Road in Guilford pictured September 3, 2021.

Carrisa & Co. Salon at 1575 Boston Post Road in Guilford pictured September 3, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

Tropiano, who calls Rollins “my friend and mentor”, said the change of ownership date was approaching “I’m getting a little nervous”.

“I am excited and hope everything goes well,” said Tropiano. “I hope all of our customers will stay. Everyone has been very positive about this so far.

Rollins will continue to work at the salon, although his workload is somewhat reduced.

“I will always be part of the crew, but I will have a little more time for myself,” he said.

Carrisa & Co. Salon at 1575 Boston Post Road in Guilford pictured September 3, 2021.

Carrisa & Co. Salon at 1575 Boston Post Road in Guilford pictured September 3, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

Loyal staff, loyal customers

Tropiano probably doesn’t have to worry about customer or employee loyalty.

Many of the salon’s clients have been coming there for decades, and some of the staff and stylists have been with the company for two decades or more. Cindi Gardner started getting Rollins’ haircut when she was a teenager and said she has stuck with him from her days at British Hairways until today.

“My mother became friends with him soon after he arrived in the United States,” Gardner said. “She brought me and my sister. Then I had three daughters and they all went there and now my granddaughters are going even though they are very young.

Gardner, who is a resident of Madison, said the reason his family have been loyal to Rollins and his staff for so long is “they make us feel like family.”

“My mom was his first customer when he came here and they developed a really great friendship,” Gardner said. “My mother went to her wedding.

Retired Ray Celmer, of Killingworth, has had his hair cut at Rollins for the past 41 years.

“My old barber had left town and a friend suggested I try Mr. Rollins,” Celmer said. “Since then, no one else has cut my hair. “A lot of friendships don’t last that long.”

Celmer said Rollins had an unearthly talent for cutting hair.

“My hair is a giant cowlick; I have very difficult hair to cut, ”Celmer said. “When he first went to work on my hair, he spent a lot of time looking at my hair, measuring it and asking a few questions. When he was done I was like, ‘A haircut and this guy really did.’ “

Celmer said part of the show’s success is that Rollins and his staff “treat everyone like a valued customer.”

“No matter who you are or how well he knows you, everyone gets the same treatment,” Celmer said. “He is the accomplished gentleman in his dealings with people. “

Gardner said she has full confidence in Rollins and her team to keep her and her family looking their best.

“I don’t know about men, but for women, appearance is of great value, not only in the workplace, but in life in general,” Gardner said.

“Christopher and his team are listening to you,” she said.

“It’s not just trust, but he and his team are listening to you, so they know what we want. And we get honest feedback from them to guide you to your best look, ”Gardner said.

Shannon McCarthy, a resident of southern Rhode Island County, has been asking Tropiano to do her hair since she was in high school. Now McCarthy works in the admissions department at a private Rhode Island school and regularly drives over an hour to Guilford for his hair.

“When you get your hair done, you feel better about yourself and have more confidence in yourself,” McCarthy said.

Changes

Rollins’ first salon was on the border between Woodbridge and the Westville neighborhood of New Haven. He opened it in April 1982.

Four years later he opened a second location at Village Walk in Guilford. The Westville living room burned down in 1990 after being struck by lightning.

He moved the Guilford Lounge to its current space at 1575 Boston Post Road in 1996.

Celmer said Rollins and his staff had to cut clients’ hair during the pandemic “and didn’t care much.”

“When the state allowed the salons to reopen, I had no reservations about going for a haircut,” Celmer said. “If it can be done right, Christopher is the one doing it.”

Rollins said the salon pushed back the business it lost when it had to close at the start of the pandemic.

“People appreciated our cleanliness and the spread of speech,” he said.

For a while, Rollins ran a cosmetology school before selling it to a friend.

Salon employees say their family at work is what keeps them from leaving for another salon or area of ​​work.

Tim Dvorsky has worked as a stylist at the salon since 1997. He once lived on the shore, but now commutes from Bethlehem to work part-time.

“I was one of three boys growing up and it’s like having 20 sisters that I never had… and never wanted,” Dvorsky joked.

Her haircut “sisters” say Dvorsky has been to Providence more than once in the middle of the night to pick one up after a bad date.

Sarah Brayfield has worked at the salon for over 15 years. The Southington resident said she started working for Rollins in her early 20s.

“We’re like family,” Brayfield said. “When you find a place you really love and really work, there’s no reason to leave. “

The hairdressing sector often has significant turnover. Some stylists leave to find other lines of work, others to create their own salons.

Rollins said he didn’t hold it against former employees who left to start their own salon.

“People should be allowed to grow taller,” he said.

Rollins estimated that his salon’s clientele was 68 women and 32% men.

He said what’s hot in terms of hairstyle and the techniques used to achieve those looks “sometimes change monthly or quarterly.”

“You see a wide variety of looks on guys,” he said. “Because (types of) hair is so diverse, the biggest thing is the texture. None of us are happy with what we have.

Rollins said that many older women today “go from coloring their hair regularly to naturally.”

“We do color to enhance the naturalness of gray,” he said.

But the double standard that men and women let their hair turn completely gray hasn’t changed, according to Rollins.

“If women have gray, they get older,” he said. “If men turn gray, people say it looks genteel.”

The salon number does not change: 203-453-6836.

[email protected]

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