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Victoria hair stylist has been in the biz 49 years


Jan. 25, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 28, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.

TOP LEFT: Charles Colson, owner of Charles Hair Styling and Massage Therapy, has been in business for almost 50 years.  Fifteen years ago, Colson complemented his styling salon with professional massage therapy as a way to help his clientele in a more complete way. Colson has been involved in the community by styling area beauty queens and being a mentor to visually-impaired residents in Victoria. ABOVE: Charles Colson styles hair for  Brenda Labay, one of his faithful clients.  Some of Colson's clients have stayed with him since he opened his business.

A lot has happened in the past five decades. Hairstyles poufed up to the size of Texas. The economy took a dip. Elvis died.

And, with nearly 50 years in business, Victoria stylist Charles Colson witnessed it all from inside his salon, Charles Hair Styling.

The Houston native got his start in the cut-and-style world when a friend with a salon suggested he give it a shot. Although he began as a color technician, he said he quickly developed an interest in the industry's other aspects.

"I liked the perms, the cuts and being around all the people," he said, explaining he graduated Victoria Beauty College in 1962. "I knew I didn't want to do manicures, but I learned that, too. We had to."

His first salon venture, Mr. Charles and Mr. Lee, came about in 1964. He opened the salon with Lee Shefman, and for a while, the duo wore formal suits while styling hair.

He moved on to other locations and at one point, owned a salon with six operators. But as his better operators left and opened their own salons - a fact of life in the industry - he decided to become a one-man operation.

Today's looks aren't brand-new, Colson, 68, said.

Styles change every 10 years or so, but always revert to previous trends.

Crazy hair colors were big in the past, even going back to the pinks people wanted during Elvis' popularity, he explained. The bouffant look also regained popularity.

"Now, people worry if it isn't low enough," he said. "Back then, if it wasn't high enough, girls would break into tears."

Ruth Stock has been Colson's client since 1973 and said she stayed with him because he's the only stylist she found who can work with her fine, thin hair.

Through the years, he became a friend as well as a hairdresser. Stock said she appreciates his sense of humor and ability to substitute as a psychiatrist when the time calls for it.

"I'd gone through a divorce right before I started going to him, and I found him very easy to talk to," she said. "He's an extremely good listener. And, sometimes, I'm a good listener for him."

It isn't all about the hair for Colson. He has pursued other interests, as well.

He invented and patented a device that warms shampoos and lotions and is in the process of writing a book, "Thank You Lord, You Did It Again." The hair stylist has macular degeneration and also mentors others with visual impairments.

Jim Dusek has been a client since about 1979, when a friend recommended Colson. Although they weren't in the same class at Victoria High School, Dusek said the two men have mutual friends and lots to talk about when he goes in for a trim.

It also helps that Dusek likes the way Colson cuts his hair.

"For a blind man, he does a good job," he said. "I like his work, and I feel comfortable there."

As the years wore on, Colson's business practices changed. He became certified in massage therapy, and about 15 years ago, added that to his offerings.

Venturing into massage therapy was rewarding, Colson said. It helps, since the economic downturn has meant a slight decrease in his styling business, and he enjoys helping people relax and easing their pain.

Colson recalled one particular story.

A young man called early one Monday, requesting a massage. Colson asked to push it back later, but the man was insistent, offering to pay double if that's what it took.

"I told him to come in, and during the massage, he started crying," Colson said of the troubled man. "He told me, 'I already had the suicide note written for 2 o'clock. I'm going to rip it up now.' When you have something like that happen, it's really powerful."

Looking ahead, Colson said he plans to continue business as usual, doing what he does now. After all, it's what makes him happy.

"I love what I do," he said. "I've had people who have told me they're jealous that I'm so happy with my job. Why stop now?"



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