When salon owner Patty Pappas had to find a new home for her hair salon, clients kept telling her to go meet Maria Vargas.
So Pappas recalled, “I just parked out there one day. I thought, ‘I’m just going to walk in.’ As soon as you meet her, I mean, that’s a big draw. She is the big draw.”
Scissors in hand, Pappas stood next to Vargas at their now shared front desk inside the dual hair salon — home to both Margarita’s Hair Studio and the Clip Joint — at 65 Mercill Ave., Suite 6.
Vargas had moved her salon to a larger space with five stylists in April 2018. But by the beginning of July 2019, some stylists had moved on and Vargas had empty stations to fill.
“It’s a blessing that they chose us,” Vargas said. “I just love the energy they bring.”
The salons combined in late September, creating something of a multicultural hub for longtime locals.
“We are very international,” Vargas said.
Vargas and her colleague Alison Sosa, who trace family roots to Tlaxcala, Mexico, are bilingual, speaking to clients in Spanish and English. Their shop also draws Eastern European workers, who say they feel more comfortable going to a salon where second languages are spoken.
Latin music, from Reggaeton to bachata, often fills the spacious salon. But now with new stylists in the mix — Amber Jones Chapman has been at the Clip Joint for 14 years, Michelle Mahoney Allen for 12 — the beats vary.
“We even play country for Michelle,” Sosa said. “Everybody mixes very well. It’s very nice.”
The stylists are not entirely strangers. Chapman once coached Sosa, a seventh grader at the time, in basketball.
“They have welcomed us with open arms,” Chapman said.
Reflecting on the contrast to the shop’s former home, Allen said, “This place has sunshine, a door to the outside, a bathroom and good music.”
Dennis Simmons and Tom Courtney started the Clip Joint about 45 years ago in a converted broom closet at Snow King Hotel. Eventually, it grew into a bigger space inside the hotel, though it never featured its own entrance or restrooms. Pappas has owned it since 1991.
The barber shop and salon lost its space after KDG Capital, a Tampa, Florida, investment group, bought the hotel in January.
“The intimacy or connection we had at the Clip Joint, that can never be replaced,” Pappas said. But “this is the best place we could have landed.”