John and Lorraine Ridley have hung up their scissors.
For 40 years, the Ridleys operated John Lorraine European Hair on the Forgotten Mile. When they purchased the old home at the corner of Ann Avenue and Coastal Highway, a peach orchard grew in the place of the current parking lot.
“We walked in and thought, what have we done?” John laughed.
They gutted the home, transforming the living room into a reception area; the kitchen and bedrooms became salon stations.
“Lots of stylists have worked here, and they all left better than they came,” John said. “About 80 percent of the stylists opened their own shops. Some are still open today.”
Both Ridleys are from England; Lorraine hails from Manchester, and John from Yorkshire. They met in a Manchester hair salon. Lorraine had previously managed a cruise ship salon and often visited her sister, who lived in Wilmington. She wanted to live in America, so the Ridleys moved to Ogletown in 1974, bringing their trade and extensive training with them.
A client whose father owned Henlopen Beauty Salon in the Henlopen Hotel needed help running the salon, John said. The Ridleys bought into the salon, but when the rent was later raised, they realized it would be cheaper in the long run to buy their own place.
“We remodeled it into a modern salon,” John said. “And remodeled it two more times after that.”
John smiled, recalling the crowded party held the night before John Lorraine’s opening day. “The road was packed!”
After working together for more than 40 years, and living together even longer, the Ridleys often finish each other’s sentences. They attribute their business’s longevity and success to hard work and a lot of prayer.
“We had some tough times and a big mortgage,” Lorraine said. “But, we had new ideas, and the timing was right. It was fun. We both enjoyed what we did, and that’s why we did it so long.”
“We take care of people the right way,” John said. “We’re conscientious and we worked hard.”
“It was the best thing besides the birth of our son,” Lorraine said.
Their son Jason passed away in September 2011 at age 32 after a five-week battle with cancer. His daughter was born just two days later.
“She’s a tremendous blessing,” John said. “We’re so lucky to have her.”
After Jason’s death, the Ridleys went into semi-retirement.
“He was going to take over the salon,” Lorraine said. “We came in to see if we could do it without him. We could, but why? We weren’t passing it on to him anymore.”
For the past nine years, John and Lorraine worked four days a week, and then just four to six hours a day, and listed the property for sale.
“It was for sale for three years, but when it sold, it happened so bloody fast it made our heads spin,” Lorraine said.
SoDel Concepts purchased the property and will demolish the building to create a new office space, SoDel Marketing Director Nelia Dolan said.
The Ridleys say they will miss the work and may even pick up their scissors again. For now, they want to enjoy time with their granddaughter and hope to do a little traveling.
“We want to thank all of our clients and staff from the last 40 years,” John said. “We had a great time and enjoyed their company. It was a fast 40 years.”