Time to Cut Loose

Mckenzie Delisle, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
·4 min read

Apr. 3—PLATTSBURGH — Not ready to pack away her shears for good, Elizabeth "Punki" Duhaime is stepping out of the spotlight after a near 40 years as a hair salon bigwig.

The Punki's Shear Perfection building, at the intersection of Halsey Court and Boynton Avenue, was sold to Cheryl Zedick, owner of Margaret Street salon Cut Loose. That salon will operate out of the Punki's building starting May 1 with both teams merged under one roof.

Punki's Shear Perfection will be no more, but 68-year-old Duhaime will continue styling clients there three to four days a week.

"My husband (Patrick) wants me to cut down to two days, but I don't see how that's possible," she said. "I just love what I do. I have great clients and they turn out to be great friends."

DECADES ON JOB

Duhaime's parents lovingly nicknamed their daughter "Punki" at age two and it stuck.

"No one knows Elizabeth — unless I'm in trouble," she joked.

When she graduated cosmetology school and entered the workforce in 1971, stylists were wearing uniforms, salons were just becoming unisex and perms were all the rage.

"Men would be at the dryers and they'd have their hair in perm rods," Duhaime remembered. "They don't do that anymore."

The 19-year-old stylist started at a couple local salons, working 12-hour days on her feet and shampooing for a friend at one time to build connections.

The first salon she worked was for a man named Antonio, who taught her, "If you take the time to do it right the first time, you won't have to take the time to do it over."

"I still think about that," she said.

THE RIGHT FIT

Duhaime opened Punki's Shear Perfection out of a former garage in 1982, using her family nickname to hide her real identity.

"I didn't want my name there, because I was nervous," she said. "I thought, 'If I don't make it, what am I go to do?"

The salon moved to its current location in 1998. The building dates back to the 1930s and once housed a grocery mart and later a jewelry store.

"One day when I was driving down Boynton Avenue, I saw a 'Going Out of Business Sale,'" Duhaime said. "My grandmother used to take us there when I was a kid and I always loved the building, its stonework.

"As soon as I walked in, I wanted it."

The structure, now 1,700 square feet after some renovations, has seven stylists stations, a pedicure room, a facial room, a reception area and a breakroom.

READY TO SLOW

Duhaime and husband Patrick, who maintains the building, were both ready for a slower pace and on the hunt for a buyer when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and decelerated the process last year.

It was later determined that Zedick, a longtime friend, was the woman for the job.

"I wanted someone who was going to work as hard as we did," Duhaime said. "I know that Cheryl will."

FAST FRIENDS

Zedick, a stylist for 30 years, met Duhaim in the 1980s and said the pair "just always connected."

"She's like a sister that I never had," Zedick said. "I know that sounds weird, but that's the way it is.

"I always told her, 'There are enough heads in Plattsburgh for the both of us. You're not my competition; you're my friend.'"

'COME JOIN US'

Zedick, 61, said the salon space would have positive changes.

"There's going to be facials, manicures, pedicures and new blood, new energy," she said. "The combination between the two teams is going to be amazing."

There will be eight stylists total, including Duhaime and Zedick's daughter Christine "Chrissy" Burns. Zedick expects Burns to take over the business in the future.

"This is a great opportunity for us; it's going to be great."

Cut Loose will have its new sign up in time for its May 1 reopening and, for community members driving by, Zedick wanted them to know, "Punki and her girls are still here. Come join us and give us a chance.

"You won't be disappointed."

Email McKenzie Delisle:

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle