DICK STUUT & SONS, HAIRDRESSERS – AN EARLY UNISEX HAIRDRESSING SALON.
In 1951 in the aftermath of World War II, Dick (Dirk) Stuut and his family, including four children, migrated to Australia from Groningen in the Netherlands. Dick had operated a hairdressing business since 1931. He claimed there had been Stuuts working as barbers in the Netherlands since 1761.
Beecroft was still a very small suburban shopping centre when two years later Dick Stuut purchased the rundown one-chair barber shop of Charlie Perry at 10 Hannah Street. The two-storey building was owned by the Public Trustee. Perry told Dick, ‘You’ll never make a go of it here’. Charlie’s main business seems not to have been in cutting men’s hair but in operating an illegal SP (off-course) bookmaking business. (This was before the introduction of the TAB.) Perry underestimated the industry and determination of Dick Stuut and the attraction for the locals of a ‘continental’ hairdresser.
Beecroft in 1953 had a sprinkling of shops along Wongala Crescent (then Railway Parade), and shops were dotted along both sides of Hannah Street and along Beecroft Road, almost all providing essential foods and services, except perhaps for the small lending library in Hannah Street. At first, Stuuts’ clients were mainly local residents. Leading Beecroft and Cheltenham figures, the Arnott and Vickers families, arrived in their chauffeurdriven cars to have their hair trimmed.
However, after the building of Beecroft Arcade on the site of Ozzie Seale’s house and dental practice, Beecroft’s shopping centre became more attractive and very different from either Epping or Pennant Hills. It It could easily be reached from burgeoning North Epping via Sutherland Road. The Commonwealth Bank in Hannah Street was built, rivalling the existing Bank of New South Wales on the corner of Beecroft Road and Hannah Street. Beecroft’s new businesses in the 1960s included Moongold Chocolates (which operated on the site now occupied by The Children’s Bookshop and Capella Bookshop), and Valli’s boutique in the Arcade, the first of a series of fashionable clothing shops.
There were gift shops such as Kenwick Galleries, which closed in 2007 and Polly Poppins, also now closed. These were the forerunners of a continuing chain of businesses which came to include the Treasure House, a jewellery business, and the Children’s Bookshop which made Beecroft’s shopping centre distinctively different from developments in adjoining suburbs such as Pennant Hills and Epping. Ron Stuut believes that the establishment of an attractive array of ‘boutique’ businesses helped over many years to bring clients to Dick Stuut’s ladies’ hairdressing salon which he established and which from 1955 operated upstairs in the building at 10 Hannah Street. Beecroft then had one of the earliest unisex hair salons in Sydney At the time men’s and women’s hairdressing trades in New South Wales were quite separate, and a men’s hairdresser could cut women’s hair only if qualified to do so by taking a specific course but he could not be licensed to perm, colour or set hair, unless he had completed the full trade course for ladies’ hairdressing. Dick Stuut did cut hair for female clients and he also employed a qualified female hairdresser who lived in Cheltenham. His sons Ron and Bert became his apprentices and his wife Diane worked as the receptionist. It was and remained a family hairdressing salon, catering to clients of all ages and both sexes and the business sign proclaimed Dick Stuut & Sons Hair Dressers. Ladies’ Salon Upstairs.
In the early 1960s Dick Stuut purchased the building for ₤6,000. The main women’s business, apart from cuts, was the weekly ‘set’ and the Stuuts’ awning also proclaimed that the salon offered the services of a ‘permanent wave specialist’.
This was all to change later when hairdressing became part of the fashion business. Until then female clients would come to the salon about once a week for a ‘set’ and when needed, a trim, but would not have dreamed of the kind of expense women now regard as normal when they visit a salon less frequently. Stuuts always employed at least one specialist in men’s hairdressing (at one time they had three barber’s chairs) whereas the newer salons that were established in Beecroft concentrated on ladies’ hairdressing only. In 1964 Stuuts’ advertisements in the monthly Beecroft Express boasted that the salon had ‘10 hairdressers in attendance’.
Dick Stuut retired in 1970. He and his sons believed that it was important to train the future generation of hairdressers, so the business always had apprentices. Moreover, the Stuuts’ business expanded and they opened hair salons at Castle Hill, Round Corner at Dural, Pennant Hills, Hornsby, Berowra, North Rocks, Westleigh and Parramatta. They offered employees ongoing training and employed hairdressers who gained a reputation as leading stylists and winners of NSW hairstyling competitions. They encouraged their staff to enter these annual competitions as they wanted their salons to achieve excellence.
Eventually Ron Stuut became the administrator and buyer in this chain of businesses and his brother Bert the staff manager, although both continued to cut hair. When Stuuts’ Beecroft salon was sold, Ron Stuut estimated that 40 of the current 50 or so hairdressers operating or working in five hair salons in Beecroft were former Stuuts employees.
None of the next generation of the Stuut family continued the family trade. Stuuts had been operating a salon on the same site in Beecroft for almost 50 years when it closed in 2002, although another hairdressing business continues to operate on the site.