Local businessman donates accessible sinks to area salons
Heidi Braylock, a hair stylist at Fantastic Sams in Roseville, had a problem: “We [stylists] need sinks that raise up or down. And it’s hard to cut hair for people in wheelchairs because they are so low. Kills your back.” Her concern appeared in the article “Getting a Good Haircut: Customers and stylists speak out on using PCAs at the salon,” in Access Press’ October 10, 2007 edition.
Dave Shusterich, president of Accessible Systems in Minneapolis, which makes Adjust-a-Sink, saw Braylock’s comment and thought, “We have that product!” He immediately contacted Access Press and offered to have his company donate an Adjust-a-Sink to three local salons, seeking to show them that using the right equipment is “vital to commercial salons that have to accommodate customers in a more mobile and accessible society.”
Adjust-a-Sink was invented in the early 1990s by Barb Klawitter, a Burnsville resident and licensed beautician who managed salons in senior care facilities in the Twin Cities for more than 24 years. “[The Adjust-a-Sink] raises or lowers twelve inches. So if you have people in a wheelchair, it will come up to their neck height….It reduces the chance for neck injuries and other complications, particularly stroke.” According to Shusterich, the Adjust-a-Sink is the only shampoo sink available today that raises and lowers vertically so handles of a wheelchair can go under the sink. “There are 1500 in use nationwide and never has one been removed.”
Accessible Systems bought the Adjust-a-Sink from Klawitter in 2007 with the hope of expanding the business beyond senior care facilities. Shus-terich explains that their interest in the product was two-fold. “We thought it had great marketing potential but was also doing good in society.” He saw the need for an adjustable sink for a wide range of customers, including himself: “I’ve never had a comfortable shampoo [in a salon].”
In early 2008 Accessible Systems made good on their promise and donated and installed the sinks in three area salons: Fantastic Sams on Xerxes Avenue in Brooklyn Center, the Hair Shoppe in Bloomin-gton, and Riverfront Cutters in Oak Park Heights. Response from the stylists has been overwhelmingly positive. June Romann is a stylist at Fantastic Sams with 30 years experience. She was pleased to find that clients did not have to transfer out of their wheelchairs to get a shampoo: “I’ve had clients say they’re coming back just because of that convenience.” Her fellow stylist Melanie Dehoop was pleased with the sink’s ease of use. “I can get it to the right level without straining my back.” She found that it was great for a wide range of customers too, not just the elderly or those with disabilities. “Kids are less afraid of getting a shampoo in this sink.”
Ted Halone, proprietor of The Hair Shoppe in Bloomington was effusive in his praise: “It is absolutely the very best tool in the business. I just can’t say enough good…my clients’ necks love it – and my back is praising its versatility! As a veteran hairdresser of over 40 years I can’t express enough how important this is.” His stylist Jill Fuglsby discovered that the sink was useful for shampooing tall customers as well. “They don’t have to lay all the way back.”
Riverfront Cutters owner Marylene Kurkowski was surprised when Shusterich offered to donate an Adjust-a-Sink to her salon several months ago. Although she knew shampoo sinks that could slide forward were available, she had not seen a sink with a height adjustment feature. But the benefits for customers became quickly apparently and now Riverfront stylist Alisa Kolongowski uses it for all her clients.
Tae Choi, owner of three Fantastic Sams franchises, including the salon in Roseville where Braylock is employed and two salons in Brooklyn Center, said she was not interested when Shusterich offered an Adjust-a-Sink for one of her salons, imagining it was “only useful for nursing homes.” But after trying a sink she realized it was “very comfortable” and agreed to add one to her new salon in Brooklyn Center. To her surprise, a wide range of clients liked using the sink, including little children and the elderly. Now she describes the sink as “really great” and laughs to remember that she initially “refused four times” to accept Shusterich’s donation.
Kolongowski also laughed at the thought of anyone being particularly interested in a shampoo sink: “there is only so much you can say about a sink.” But she and other stylists interviewed agreed that reducing strain on them and their clients made for a more accessible salon and allowed stylists to provide better service to all customers. Halone summed it up for many stylists: “If only I would have had this earlier.” He recalled “many situations” when a customer with disabilities “struggled receiving hair services. With the Adjust-a-Sink the dignity and comfort are not compromised…I truly believe that this is a must for every salon that opens their doors for business.”