Amidst the row of trendy outlets on the bustling Pondy Bazaar stands a 70-year-old shop that retains every essence since the day it opened. Perhaps the oldest in business in the city, the shop has a clientele including ‘who is who' of the tinsel town.
Started in 1940, Kerala Hair Dressers in Pondy Bazaar is an establishment run by a family for three generations now. Distinctive about the hair salon, apart from its age, is a vintage look featuring fine woodwork in its interiors. Carved furniture, mirror frames, glass showcases and a name board crafted out of Burmese teak adorn the salon.
"My grandfather Sankunni Nair came to Madras from Thrissur and setup this shop for a rent of Rs. 7 per month. I remember him saying how T. Nagar was a deserted area with lot of trees and very few shops including our shop and Naidu Hall, which was then a tailoring shop," reminisces Sankunni Nair's grandson A. Sandeep. After Nair, the shop was passed on to Sandeep's father S. Aravindakshan in 1970 and now it is under Sandeep's management.
Both father and son believe that their hair salon is the oldest in the city as others have been dethroned by modern-day beauty salons. “We will always maintain the traditional look of a salon and our loyal costumers are the only asset which keeps us in the rat race,” adds Aravindakshan. According to Sandeep, celebrities including Telugu star N.T. Rama Rao, Kannada star Raj Kumar, Tamil star Siva Kumar and other yesteryears fame names of cinema used to frequent Kerala Hair Dressers.
“Nalli Kuppusami Chettiar is still our customer and he even mentioned about our salon in his book Thyagaraya Nagar, Andrum Indrum released in 2008,” he adds.
The most eye-catchy embellishment in the salon is a big antique clock gifted to Sandeep's grandfather by his friend Venugopal, a watch mechanic, in the early 40's.
“Many people had asked me to sell them the clock. Once an American tourist came to my shop and gave his phone number to contact if I ever decide to sell the clock,” says Sandeep on the teakwood timepiece which has become an indispensable item of his establishment. The father and son have no plans to branch out their business but nurture their only shop for many more years to come.