Thursday, September 6, 2012

Article about Will's Hairstyling in Baltimore's Child Magazine

Baltimore's Child June 2012

Your Special Child
 
Amy Landsman 
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Get a Haircut

“Do you like my Three Stooges?” asks barber Will Colhouer.

Well, in fact Will, I do like your two-foot-tall plaster figures of Larry, Moe, and Curley, which occupy a place of pride right in the front window of your Harford Road rowhouse-turned-barber shop.

And that life-size cardboard cutout of The Stooges in the rear of the shop? That’s quite a showstopper as well.

Colhouer has been wielding his barbering tools for an impressive 32 years now. He’s been at his current location, a single-seat barber shop on Harford Road in Baltimore’s Waltherson neighborhood, for the past 19 years and counting. And if there was ever a place that reflected someone’s personality, it’s Will’s.

“I’m not a cookie-cutter haircut shop,” he boasts.

From the turntable (that’s something that plays records) in the waiting area, to the vintage radio squeezed in next to Moe and Curley (or is it Larry?) In the window, to the retired barber chairs that serve as waiting room seats, to the old-time photos of Baltimore, Will’s Barber Shop is a unique vision.

But there is one photo of a smiling little girl on display that is a bit closer to his heart.

“This is my daughter Sarah,” says Colhouer. “She’s my beautiful girl. Everybody knows her.” 

Sarah, now 32, has autism and lives in a residential home in Rockville. And it’s because of Sarah that Colhouer has developed a much-needed skill: cutting hair for children and adults with special needs.

“Nothing bothers me. I’ve seen it all,” says Colhouer, who points out that you don’t often see people with Serious disabilities in barber shops or salons. In his experience, he says, many families end up having someone come to the house to do the job. But Sarah was a good trainer for her dad, who goes the extra mile to make people with special needs feel comfortable and relaxed.

“I have different things that are very interesting in the barber shop, so I try to distract them,” he explains.“I try to get them to play first. When I cut their hair, sometimes their hands go flying, and their feet go flying. We try to keep that from happening.” 

Sometimes, Colhouer will open his shop, which is handicapped accessible, early for customers who need a quiet environment. He says there was never a specific moment when he decided to help out families with kids with special needs. But because he’s always been open about Sarah and because he’s a natural conversationalist, word just go around. “I would say it was more serendipity,” he observes. “Some people came here just happened to have a handicapped child.” 

Hamilton resident Judy Schneider takes her twin adult daughters, Jocelyn and Hillary, age 34, who both have autism, to Colhouer for their haircuts. He’s “really accommodating,” says Schneider. “I bring them in early so they have time to run around. They love it there.” 

“I’m kind of a silly guy,” Colhouer says. “They see that, and it makes them more relaxed.” 

As Colhouer works, he keeps up a steady chatter with everyone in the shop, even as he takes a straight razor to a customer’s neck.

“I learn to tune him out,” deadpans his shop assistant, Monica Goldsborough.

Colhouer is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. With the help of other Harford Road businesses, he holds a yearly fund-raiser for CSAAC, Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children, of Rockville, the nonprofit organization that operates Sarah’s residential home. He’s outspoken in his frustration that children with special needs age out of the entitlement network of therapy and services when they turn 21 and believes that even if services and therapy were provided only once a week, it would help young adults with disabilities keep the skills they worked so hard to achieve.

Colhouer’s activism hasn’t gone unnoticed. Two years ago, he was selected as one of “Baltimore’s Best Dads” and attended a luncheon hosted by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“I’m very proactive for autism,” he says. It “made me a stronger person…able to connect with people at all levels.”

Get to know more about Will online at www.willshairstyling.com, or call 410-426-0142. To make a contribution to CSAAC that will be credited to the shop, go online to www.csaac.org, or call 240-912-2220.
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