Originally created 02/26/03

Businessmen drop in at salon for gossip, haircut



Georgia Ansley: Owner took over control of the salon five years ago.

Staying in style

When Matador Men's Hair Styling opened more than 30 years ago, the original owner picked the name because she liked Spanish culture.

When Georgia Ansley took over the shop five years ago, she kept the name for different reasons.

"You can imagine working with a bunch of men all day long," she said. "It's a place that's full of bull."

There's no obvious sign outside the SunTrust Bank annex off Eighth and Reynolds streets to indicate a hair salon operates inside next to business offices.

Still, Mrs. Ansley has a full appointment book - 300 regular clients, mostly downtown bankers, businessmen and city officials who come in as much to swap stories as to get a haircut.

That roster includes prominent residents, such as Wachovia's Augusta president, Paul Menk; retired banker Monty Osteen; and Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

On an average day, it's not unusual to hear political gossip, business advice, good-natured ribbing and even a dirty joke or two fly around the salon, Mrs. Ansley said.

"They're relaxed in here," she said. "It's just like family because I've been with them 27 years."

Many of Mrs. Ansley's current clients began getting their hair cut at Matador when they were "little tow-headed boys" when she started working there in 1976. It wasn't until Mrs. Ansley's partner, Peggy Warren, retired five years ago that the 53-year-old became the salon's sole owner.

When Ms. Warren and Champ Newsome opened Matador in 1969, there were already a few barbershops operating on Eighth Street, the middle of a bustling business district. They brought with them a male salon, a new concept for the time that differed from barbershops because it focused more on actually styling men's hair instead of relying primarily on clippers.

"We went to several clinics or seminars about styling hair, and it wasn't cut it all off anymore," said Mr. Newsome, who now owns his own shop on Chafee Avenue. "We started teaching (customers) about styling gel and hair spray that men didn't do for so many years."

Bill Blanchard, a broker for Roy Scarborough & Associates Insurance Inc., said he has stopped in the salon regularly for the past 10 years for a cut or to see who's inside.

"My office is almost adjoining there," he said. "I look in there and see people waiting that I know."

Whether it's a styling salon or a traditional barbershop, there's something social about getting a haircut in a familiar place, said Dana Turner, one of Matador's two newest stylists.

After being hired in November, Mrs. Turner quickly learned that she would have to pay more attention to local politics to keep up with the names dropping as much as the freshly cut hair.

"It's different than doing perms," said Mrs. Turner, who also works part time at a women's hair salon in North Augusta. "You learn a lot of secrets about men."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.