May Moore first opened the doors of her family business ‘May’s’ seven decades ago in October 1952, with three generations of the family having coiffed the tresses and locks of their regular customers. One of those special customers is 99 year-old Mary Hackworth, who was delighted to join May’s daughter Valerie Webster and granddaughter Heather Cromie who both work in their home-based salon, for their milestone anniversary celebration.
Valerie believes ‘May’s’ salon is one of the oldest businesses to be operating in the picturesque seaside town, alongside The Cabin ice-cream shop that has been trading for 93 years. Over the past 70 years, an array of hairstyles may have flitted in and out of fashion, but the family’s passion for working at the heart of their community remains steadfast.
Valerie recalled when her mum, May, first opened the family business all those years ago. “My mum was from Dundonald and she married my dad Hugh who was from Donaghadee,” she said. After starting her family, May was keen to return to working as a hairdresser and had the full support of her husband. “They put in a sink and a hairdryer in one of the rooms and that was for about a year. Then they built the salon on to the back of the house and we are still here 70 years later,” said Valerie. She was thrilled to follow in her mother’s footsteps, pursing a career as a hairdresser. “I started in 1970 and she couldn’t beat me out the salon, I just wanted to be a hairdresser. Then when my daughter came along she branched out into make-up, waxing and nails. It is definitely in the blood, very much so.” She said: “My mum was very popular when she came to Donaghadee. She had trained on the Newtownards Road, and in the early days her salon was choc-abloc.” She recalled how the three generations enjoyed working together in ‘May’s’ salon. “At one stage there were three generations working together, as my mum worked until she was 77 years-old. People would have said to my dad, would he not rather she was retired, but he said he was delighted and he was pottering about in the garage and the garden.” With such a lengthy career, Valerie says her passion for hairdressing and her customers still burns as bright: “I am now in my late 60s and there are still a couple of customers from many, many years ago. There are quite a few customers who would be in their late 80s and 90s who come every week to get their hair done. Customers keep telling me I am not to retire.”
Time and hairstyles may have changed but Valerie still treasures the past saying: “I still have my mum’s original old wooden till. My daughter has said about getting a new till but I am just going to keep the till. “When my mum started a set was three shillings and sixpence and a perm was 17 shillings and sixpence. Two ladies actually started up a club so they could pay in and get their perms.” As well as working in her home salon, Valerie also enjoys styling the hair of customers in local nursing homes.”When you walk through the Dee hairdressers celebrate 70th anniversary at cutting edge door they can’t wait to see you,” she said. Valerie is clearly dedicated to her customers as she said: “I would pick up some of my customers and bring them to the salon and then drop them home again, they are all local.” Celebrating their anniversary has been an emotional time for Valerie as she said: “Believe it or not but I have been very tearful. I am obviously feeling very emotional about it. My mum was well known and so well thought of. I would like to think I have taken after her.”