Custom Wigs Helps Clients Going Through Chemo
Wicked Local Norwood featured Nikki on the front page, October 14th for her support in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Nikki Walsh wants to help women feel whole again after they have suffered hair loss. “It’s difficult dealing with hair loss regardless of if you are a male or female, but even more so for women because a man can shave his head and a woman can’t,” said Walsh, a Norwood resident in the “Goddess” suite of her Needham business last week. In 2007, Walsh, 40, took over her mother Kathy’s business, PK Walsh, a Needham-based business that offers hair loss replacement and hair restoration services, hair rejuvenation, laser hair therapy and personalized wigs for women. The business, which Kathy started from her Brookline kitchen table in the ’80s, helps women who suffer loss from radiation and chemotherapy treatments and medical conditions like alopecia. “We want women to have a place where they can feel safe and comfortable,” said Nikki Walsh, who has lived in Norwood for the past eight years.
How it all started Kathy Walsh suffered from alopecia areata and was forced to start wearing wigs at the age of 15. But most of Kathy’s wigs covered up her thinning hair with masculine hairstyles, said Nikki Walsh. Kathy confided in her sister Pat, who was a barber, and the two women developed an idea to give women suffering from hair loss more options, including more feminine hairstyles.
“It’s really a male dominated industry,” said Nikki Walsh. “And what they sought out to do was bring solutions for women.”With the help of her sister, Kathy Walsh was able to have a more feminine hairstyle with bangs and long hair from personalized wigs the two women sold. When business started to pick up for Kathy, she moved to the living room of her Brookline home, where an 11-year-old Nikki made a small, “PK Walsh” sign. Eventually, word of PK Walsh spread, their client base grew and the two sisters moved the business to a one-room shop in Brookline where they operated from 1984-1994.
Nikki Walsh, who is trained as a hairdresser, helped her mom and aunt on and off from the outset of the business starting in 1983. She officially started working there full time in 1994, where she started off as an office assistant and worked her way up the ranks until she bought the business when her mom retired three years ago.
As the business grew, so did its locations and in 1994 they moved shop to Wellesley. In 2004 they moved to their current location at 75 2nd Ave., which houses offices, styling rooms and collection of hundreds of synthetic and real-hair custom wigs in a range of colors and styles. “We have been branding the company ever since I took over,” she said. The halls of PK Walsh’s salon offices are lined with before and after pictures of clients throughout the decades, including Kathy and Nikki’s before and after photos. Nikki also has alopecia, is a client herself and wears a realistic-looking wig. To the touch, Nikki’s real human hair wigs feels like her own hair. “Someone could literally rub your head and not know you have a piece on,” she said.
PK Walsh’s eight employees go to great lengths to make each wig identical to a client’s hairstyle, including cutting and highlighting the hair and matching the skin color of a client’s scalp to the wig.
“It’s lightweight, it’s airy and it feels and looks like skin,” said Walsh, adding that it’s important to match the size of the client’s head to the wig as well. “The whole thing feels like skin when it’s on.”
While Walsh keeps hundreds of wigs in her backroom, she often will custom order a wig from the manufacturer, which she said can take up to a week. PK Walsh started with a majority of its business catering to chemotherapy and radiation patients, but Walsh said when her mother heard that wig boutiques started opening up in hospitals in 1994 she decided the direction of the business must change.
Today, cancer patients still make up about 15 percent of PK Walsh’s business, which Walsh said is a large chunk when compared to the size of the whole operation. The process Cancer patients, Walsh said, should make an appointment to meet with her for a 90-minute consultation as soon as they find out they are going to lose their hair from chemotherapy. During the consultation clients try on different sized wigs and Walsh places the order to match the client’s hairstyle. Clients return for a 60-90 minute cutting appointment where they learn how to style their new wig.
“We like when people come in and ask for help,” she said. “It’s a new world.” Cancer patients generally come back in for a third appointment when they lose most of their hair, Walsh said, so it can be styled. Typically clients come to Walsh for three to four appointments, she said.Walsh said her staff understands how emotional a visit to her shop can be and she said they work to make the clients feel as comfortable as possible. “It’s very emotional,” she said. “Here it is you’ve got cancer and now on top of that you’re losing your hair. You feel like your femininity is challenged. We will literally walk you through it holding your hand.”
This article was written by Staff writer Chloe Gotsis and can be reached at 781-433-8339 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The link to this article http://www.wickedlocal.com/norwood/archive/x1404212057/A-cut-above-Norwood-woman-s-business-helps-clients-going-through-chemo