Solange and Richard Pepin take a moment for a portrait at their business, Hair Looks International by Solange, at the Marketplace Mall in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — It was 1980 and Richard Pepin had noticed a man watching Solange’s Barber Shop from his car, almost daily, for about a month.

Surely, the man planned to rob the place, Pepin thought. And then one day, the man walked through the door.

“He looked tough,” said Pepin, 73, who owned Solange’s with his wife. “I’m sitting there and I’ve got my bat (for protection). He comes in and I’m looking at him and he says, ‘Hi, I’ve been trying to get in here when you have no customers.’ It’s like, ‘Ahh!’ I can let go of this bat.”

The man was after a custom hairpiece. Pepin sold him the first one he’d ever designed.

“He was happy and he was with me for about 15 years,” Pepin said.

He figures he’s designed about 1,200 hairpieces since. He and Solange have cut hair on thousands of heads. After 52 years together cutting, they’re scaling back ever so slightly, giving up their own shop and taking up chairs instead at Cassiel’s Salon & Spa.

Sure, they could have retired, but, no, thank you.

“We just love doing this,” Pepin said. “Everybody else has worked for a living except me and Solange, so how can you leave a game that you love playing?”

Solange, 72, who has offered 5 a.m. haircuts on Saturdays for five decades, puts it another way.

“We’re old but we’re not ready,” she said.

Richard graduated from Lewiston High School in 1965 and Solange in 1966. He had noticed her in high school but jokes she didn’t look his way.

“I saw her at the concession,” he said. “She’d sell the Italian sandwiches at lunchtime. She wouldn’t even look at me. (Instead it was just), ‘Next!’ She was always a workaholic.”

Richard Pepin works on a wig at Hair Looks International. Pepin said he considers himself a craftsman when it comes to hairpieces. “‘What’s the cheapest thing you’ve got?’ — that’s how it all starts,” he said. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

They both ended up at Henson’s Barber School in 1966, the third generation of each of their families to go into the field. He was intrigued when she boldly took his textbook and started crossing out the things he didn’t really need to know.

They went out to a nice dinner at Lobsterland in Lewiston, as friends. She said she wanted to split the bill, and at that, he teased, “I was locked in” — this was going to be his future wife.

They had Solange’s Barber Shop at 413 Main St. for 19 years, and moved to the Marketplace Mall at 675 Main St. 34 years ago, changing the name to Hair Looks International by Solange.

They also operated Mister Richard’s Hair Styling Academy for more than 20 years.

The couple have one son who became a carpenter.

They were not planning on closing the shop now, but Richard said they were approached by someone with a generous offer for the space and that pushed the timing along.

Their last day in the Marketplace will be Saturday and the first day at Cassiel’s Aug. 26.

“I love everything that I do because it’s a variety. It’s not the same, one haircut after another,” Solange said. “We do the waxing, we do the ear piercing, we do the hairpieces, the perms, the colors. And I love working with Richard. Not everyone can say they can do 24/7 with their husbands.”

“I always say, ‘You’re absolutely right, dear,'” Richard said.

“And he does,” agreed Solange.


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