SMOOTH TRANSITION: Longtime staffer takes on salon ownership; former owner to keep cutting

Jeff Harris, who opened Ye Olde Head Shoppe in Greenfield 56 years ago is stepping down as the owner. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — After 44 years, Jeff Harris has stepped down as owner of Ye Olde Head Shoppe Salon & Spa.

He didn’t have to go far to find a new owner. In fact, he didn’t even have to go outside the salon. Denise Thompson, who has worked there for about 20 years, has taken on the role.

New owner Denise Thompson is a longtime stylist at Ye Olde Head Shoppe. (File photo)
New owner Denise Thompson is a longtime stylist at Ye Olde Head Shoppe. (File photo)

Harris may no longer be the owner, but he’s not hanging up his shears. He will maintain his booth and services in the business.

The former salon owner began his career several years before opening Ye Olde Head Shoppe in 1977.

“I figured after 50 years, that’s enough,” Harris said.

He recently battled cancer, which forced him to stop working for several months.

“You don’t ever expect to have something like that, then when you do, it just changes your mindset,” he said.

Not long after he returned to work, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. With the virus came plenty of new rules for businesses to follow, especially salons and spas, where workers have to be physically close to their customers.

“It really just knocked my feet out from underneath me,” Harris said.

Competition has increased substantially too. Harris said the number of workers currently at Ye Olde Head Shoppe likely far exceeds the number of barbers and stylists in all of Greenfield when he first started the business.

“With the competition being really tough, the fun’s just not there,” he said.

He’s looking forward to slowing down and spending more time with grandchildren and relatives.

“When I slow down or when I leave here, I want to make sure that I know the place is in good hands,” he said. “And I thought long and hard about what I would like to see happen to this place, and I want to see it go further. I want to see it better than what it is now. And I think Denise is the individual that can lead everybody, and let them lead also.”

Thompson grew up styling her Barbie dolls’ hair and was influenced in part to pursue the profession by her stepmother, who was a hairdresser.

“It was just something that I always wanted to do,” Thompson said.

She admitted she wasn’t sure if she wanted to take on ownership of the salon at first.

“I was honored, basically, to be given the opportunity to continue what he started and hopefully keep it as good or make it even better than what it was,” she said.

Thompson has already started making changes at the business, like bringing on a computer program that offers online scheduling, keeps books and tracks inventory.

Ye Olde Head Shoppe started with just two people at 125 S. State St. in Greenfield, where it stayed for 10 years. As the business grew, it moved a few houses north of its current location, where it stayed for another 10 years. The salon and spa is currently located at 949 N. State St.

“Didn’t think we’d ever use the whole building,” Harris said of the two-story structure. “We got about 6,000 square feet, and we use it all.”

Thompson said Harris has been a positive influence on her career.

“He’s just a great person, great businessman, and I hope I can aspire to be that way,” she said.

Harris is confident she will.

“I just wanted to make sure that if she took over, there weren’t going to be any big bumps in the road that she wasn’t expecting,” he said. “All I want to do is have her back and make sure that she may stumble, but I don’t want her falling and skinning her knees.”

As his enthusiasm wanes, hers grows.

“That’s the part I was losing,” he said. “And it’s good to see that; it’s great.”

Harris has been told by people in other professions that he made the right move by transferring the business to someone he’s worked alongside as opposed to a stranger.

“You just want to go ahead and have that cohesiveness, and it’s just nice and smooth,” he said.