Norwich hair salon celebrates 50 years in business

After 10 million haircuts, a Norwich salon is celebrating 50 years in business.

Nigel Alexandre, which has salons in London Street, Norwich, and in Hellesdon and Dereham, opened in Magdalen Street in August 1961.

Nigel Matthews, 71, started the business with his school friend, Alexandre Irvine. They opened their first salon in Magdalen Street in 1961 and the London Street salon in 1967.

Mr Matthews, who lives in Dereham, said: 'I still remember our first client to walk through the door. Her name was Mrs Unsworth and she came in for a perm.

'Alex and I were at boarding school together and he was my best friend. His mother had a salon in Tombland.'

The pair worked together for 10 years before Alex left to start his own business, Alexandre Stuart. At one point, the business employed 169 staff.

Mr Matthews' wife, Jo, worked as a stylist in the Dereham branch and their three children, Lisette, Justin and Becki all trained as hairdressers and started working in the family business when they were 16.

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Becki said: 'When I left school dad said to me that whatever I wanted to do was fine. I said I wanted to be a vet or a hairdresser but being a vet was about my love for animals, hairdressing was in my blood. I came in to the salon for a day and wanted to take it further.'

Justin won the British Hairdressing award in 1998.

'I remember being asked how I felt. When you see your son go up to get the award, it's far more exciting than if you were to go up yourself,' Mr Matthews said.

The salon's success has seen their styles secure the front page of the industry magazine, Hairdressers Journal, three times.

His work has also seen him travel to South Africa, Los Angeles and Brazil to carry out hair demonstrations.

Creativity and changing with the times has always been the salon's ethos.

To celebrate Neil Armstong landing on the moon, the salon created a space age hairstyle called the NA, which cost 55 guineas and included two painted table tennis balls.

Mr Matthews, who still works six days a week, said he had seen many hairstyles over the decades but the biggest change was in hair colour.

He explained: 'When I started hair colour was to cover up the grey.'

He said that the salon's success was partly due to a good relationship with clients. 'Clients are treated as friends and most are known by their Christian name.

'I still think it's lovely if you walk through the door and someone uses your Christian name.

'The day I can't walk up the stairs is the day I buy a stair lift. I'm not going anywhere, I am here forever.'

Is your business celebrating an anniversary? Contact reporter Lucy Wright on 01603 772495 or email