On a recent Saturday I took my curly-headed three-year-old son for a much needed haircut at Cartoon Cuts at the Mall in Columbia, Maryland. The store is brightly colored in primary red, blue, and green. Above the receptionist’s stand are helpful panels showing the names and pictures of various kids’ hair styles. So you can just point to the Bieber-like “The Hollywood”, for example, and the stylist will know what you are talking about-instead of what I usually say inarticulately: “Can you cut it kinda up to here but sort of keep the bangs but layer a little?”
The place was busy, with waiting families sitting on chairs that ran down the middle of the space and also at the front of the store. My son busied himself with some Lego blocks. There was also a ride-along car but it was too babyish for him. We’ve been to the Cartoon Cuts at Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike as well, and that store has a bigger space and more toys in the waiting area, including a video game player.
Each stylist’s station comes with a TV set. Our stylist was named Nhung and as soon as she noticed my son’s red Cars shirt, she changed the show from a Sponge Bob episode to Cars. (They must have that movie running on a loop.) But first my son had to get his hair washed with Ellie the Elephant, which thrilled him. He liked climbing the little stairs to the lounge-like bed, then lying down on his back with his head hanging over the sink. Above him hung Ellie’s green trunk.
Nhung was great with him, making whooshing noises as she washed and shampooed his hair. Then back at the barber’s chair – which comes with a booster cube – my son was of course drawn into the movie, which made cutting his hair quick and drama free. Luckily, he’s not someone who gets upset during hair cuts, but store manager Kristy Obregon told me that even if kids do cry, scream, bite, and hit, the stylists are trained to know how to handle that with patience and good humor.
“Some stylists have been here 20 years,” said Kristy, who is manager at the Congressional Plaza store. Considering that Cartoon Cuts is often the place parents go for their kids’ first haircuts, “all of us are in a million baby-book pictures,” she joked. “That’s why we all show up at work every day with full makeup on.”
Although Cartoon Cuts is focused on children 12 and under, there’s no age limit on hair cuts. Parents can get their ‘dos done at the same time with their kids.
“We also have lots of special needs kids come in,” said Kristy. “Many of them are sensitive around the ears, for example, so we keep that in mind.”
Kristy also said that they are accommodating to those cultures that require females to cover their hair. “We can open early for them so when they uncover it’s in a private setting.”
As soon as Nhung finished cutting my son’s hair, she let him pick a lollipop from a bucket full of them (first asking if it was ok with me). For him that was probably the highlight of the visit, but for me it was leaving the store with a kid sporting a fresh look.
- You can make an appointment Monday to Friday, but it’s walk-in only on Saturday and Sunday.
- The basic haircut which comes with a shampoo costs $16.99. In addition to cuts, they also just do styling and up-dos. Convenient for pre-family portrait sessions!
- There’s some pitching of product that goes on. They carry a line of natural baby products called Original Sprout made with “organic botanicals” and I ended up buying a shampoo/body wash since Kristy swore it did wonders for cradle cap, which my 6-month-old baby has. I’ve only used it once as of this writing and it seems to do a good job so far. They also sell cute hair bows.
- Cartoon Cuts participates in Locks of Love, a national non-for-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss. When you donate 10″ or more of hair, you receive a free haircut (available on certain weekdays only, so confirm with your local Cartoon Cuts).
- Cartoon Cuts also hosts birthday parties, with themes that include Pretty Princess and Rockin Rock Star. Guests receive hairstyling/spiking (for boys), nail painting, and makeup application. There’s also group games and karaoke.
- Cartoon Cuts got its start 21 years ago with an entrepreneurial couple who opened their first store in Fairfax, Virginia. They now have salons in Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.