WESLEY CHAPEL — This month Rachel Kight has her work cut out for her.
She's been busily snipping and clipping, averaging 20 kids' haircuts a day at the JCPenney Salon at the Shops at Wiregrass.
"I never sit down and go home tired — but in a good way," she added with a smile.
Kight and other stylists at the JCP Salon have completed 1,700 kids' haircuts so far this month, and they are booked solid with appointments through late August. With numbers like that, you might think they're giving haircuts away.
Well, they are.
This salon is participating in a national JCPenney promotion providing free haircuts throughout August to children in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Word spread quickly.
"I've worked here a year and a half and, except for Christmas, it has never been this busy," said Shannon Collins, senior hair designer at the Wiregrass salon. "I've gone from working two days a week to four, and I work eight and a half hour days. I do about 15 kids' haircuts a day."
Ellen Torres, store manager of the JCP Salon at Wiregrass, said the free haircut program is a first for the company.
"The salon may have given away hair products before, but never services," she said. "And I think it's cool that they're doing this for the kids. We're getting kids coming in who have never had a professional haircut."
"A professional haircut makes them feel better about themselves," added store manager Randy Teegarden. "And the service of a free haircut helps to free up money for other things that kids need this time of year, like clothes and school supplies."
New Tampa resident Lindsay Rewald agrees. A first-time customer at the salon, she brought daughters Madison, who is about to start second grade at Lutz Preparatory School, and Haley, a 4-year-old entering VPK, into the salon Thursday for some complimentary cuts.
"This was a great relief," she said of the haircut program. "It helps a lot to save that $15."
Regular customer Melissa Hudson also brought in her daughter, 5-year-old Leila, to get a free back to school cut.
"I thought this was an excellent idea," said Hudson. "We come here anyway, and this saves us some money this year."
Kight says that customers have expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the program.
"As a mom, I understand," she said. "A $15 haircut might not seem very expensive, but if you have three or four kids it adds up."
Receptionists Tanyea Griffin, Mallory Auman, Annette Cosme and Renee Zollo keep a steady stream of young patrons walking back to the stylists' chairs throughout the day. Stylists chat with the kids about everything from what they plan to study at school to what their favorite color happens to be; and they pay strict attention to the styling requests of their youngest clients.
"All the little boys want a fauxhawk," said Kight. "All the little girls want to be Rapunzel."
The program boasts a philanthropic angle as well: Each of the member salons donated $1 to the national 4-H and Boys and Girls Club of America for every free haircut given Aug. 1
And, according to Collins, the program benefits stylists as well.
"The tips have been good, and most of the kids have been very polite," she said. "And the steady stream of kids certainly makes the day go faster!"