Child's Play

What's more fun than a barrel of monkeys? Not much—except for, possibly, Wild Monkey, a lively, kid-friendly salon in Cicero, NY, and the brainchild of its high-energy owner, Lynn Mullin. A mother of two who grew up in a salon family—she worked at her mother's Las Vegas salon for 17 years, and her father has owned salons in upstate New York for over 40 years—Mullin offers a fun and different experience for the whole family or, as the giant banner outside her salon proclaims, "for kids ages one to 100." Wild Monkey's child-safe environment is complete with a train set, easels, video games, a juice box-filled cooler and, not surprisingly, monkeys in many guises.

 Kids account for 60 percent of Mullin's clientele.
Kids account for 60 percent of Mullin's clientele.

While some salons are hesitant to offer children's services, Mullin knew from the get-go that providing an atmosphere conducive to the younger crowd would go a long way toward building her client base. "My mom's salon was always filled with kids, and when she sold the place and I moved back here with two girls of my own, I knew a kid-friendly salon was definitely what I needed," she says. "I wanted to be close to my daughters' school, to be able to spend time with them and work, too. We're the only place in the area where mom and dad can get their hair done while their kids are having a great time—where they can see them." In fact, she adds, the kids usually don't want to leave when they're done. Now, 60 percent of her clients are children.



Her instincts have paid off. Word of mouth has helped Mullin's client base zoom from zero to 400 in only four months. "Word spreads fast," she says. "It's been my best marketing tool so far." That, plus the neon-bright monkey logo in the front window, sets the mood for a fun salon experience for many pint-size first-timers. "A lot of hairdressers aren't sure how to handle kids, especially the younger ones," says Mullin, who's also an educator for Andis. "It takes patience and a sense of humor. A haircut is a haircut: It's something kids have to get used to, and you do the best you can. I've given haircuts to kids while they were being rocked on their mom's lap. And if it's not a perfect haircut, so what—I've never cut a kid yet! By their second or third visit, they're usually OK." Mullin has even cut hair in the waiting area if it helps make a child feel less nervous; having a small TV/VCR at the workstation is also a good idea, she suggests.

In addition to a full-service menu of cuts, perms, color, nails and waxing, Wild Monkey (the salon owes its name to Mullin's imaginative 9-year-old daughter) offers birthday parties and specials such as free birthday haircuts to attract the 15-to-18-year-old crowd. And as her clientele grows, Mullin is looking to add another stylist to her one-woman operation. "I need someone who can work with moving targets," she says cheerfully. "Hair is hair; you just do the best you can, and use some common sense. If you don't take a chance, you'll never know."

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