'The end of an era': House of Lords hair salon set to close after 51 years
Bowie came here for a trim. But more than a hair salon, House of Lords on Yonge St. has been the site of record release parties and live radio broadcasts.
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The vibe at legendary hairdresser House of Lords was electric on Wednesday afternoon. Dance music blared in the studio and spilled onto Yonge St. as guests chatted on a purple couch under small disco balls that hung from the ceiling.
One would never suspect that the famed institution was living its last days.
On Tuesday, Paul Burford, the owner of House Of Lords, declared on Facebook that he was closing his studio due to increasing property taxes. He told his staff on Wednesday that the studio would close on October 1, after 51 years of operation.
“I’m closing down, I made a decision, I’ve had enough, I’m 75, I work every day,” said Burford. “You try to give the customer a good deal, keep the prices down, employ 20 people, and then they whack you with double tax,” said Burford, standing outside of his truck with House of Lords branding painted on it.
“The mayor, I see him today on TV talking about bicycles. We’ve got another zillion dollars worth of bicycles . . . but for Christ’s sake, give us a break on Yonge St.”
Don Peat, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in response that Tory “has delivered three budgets that have kept the annual property tax increase at or below the rate of inflation. He understands the importance of keeping the city affordable.
“The Mayor’s office asked City staff to examine the issues raised by the owner of 639 Yonge Street,” Peat said.
Over the years House of Lords came to be much more than a hair salon. Burford would throw record release parties, host album launches, and perform live radio broadcasts from the salon.
Rock stars have always been a part of the studio’s history. A signed photo of Axl Rose sits prominently above a workstation, while a photo from 1969 depicts a line going out the door when a young David Bowie was getting a trim.
The list goes on, with artists from Rod Stewart to Kiefer Sutherland to Lights all patrons of the salon.
The stylists spoke highly of Burford, who they affectionately call “Daddy Cash.”
“He’s saved more lives and launched more careers than anybody single-handedly in Toronto’s history,” said Melanie Lemieux, a stylist at the studio who has worked there for 14 years.
“If it weren’t for Paul, I’d probably be dead in a ditch overdosed,” Lemieux said.
“He’s taken people off the street and given them an opportunity to rebuild their lives, no questions asked . . . I’m one of them.”
“Our boss (Burford), as crazy as he is, he has the biggest heart,” said Irene Hedrich, a stylist who has worked at House of Lords for eight years and worked her last day on Wednesday.
“It feels surreal, you always think it’s going to be here . . . you try another job and it doesn’t work out, you always know you have House of Lords to come back to because Paul always allows you to come back because he’s nice like that.”
Every morning, Burford blows up multicoloured balloons with the company logo and hangs them on a string inside and outside the studio.
With the help of his daughter Tabitha, Burford curates the dance music he blasts in the salon, which is in stark contrast to the rock legends he commemorates on the studio’s walls.
“It makes the stylists work faster,” said Debby Kaltsounis, who has been at House of Lords for four years.
Throughout the day, he tells his staff to turn up the volume on the upbeat electronic music that “attracts all the weirdos to the shop,” according to Kaltsounis.
Customer Orrie Herbert has been getting his hair cut at House of Lords for eight years.
“I always came for (stylist) Robert, he was really quick.” Now that the studio is closing down, he isn’t sure where he’ll go.
“I’ll just have to ask around, I guess.”
Kaltsounis, who will be opening her own salon, plans to take a page out of Burford’s book by having balloons and loud music in her studio. She plans to bring some House of Lords staff as they’ll soon find themselves without jobs.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Lemieux.