A Hair Raising Family Business
“We do have the scab blood; it’s not quite like the coagulated blood but it should do the job,” says James Rizzuto, manager of the Vieux Carré Hair Shop, while on the phone with a customer.
It’s just another Halloween and this store is bustling. Ingrid Anderson, a freelance make-up specialist and lash designer, is buying pots of white crème makeup and plenty of makeup sponges for her many clients.
“I’m totally booked,” she says. “I come here because they have everything I need. And they are so down-to-earth and fun.”
Lynn Highstreet and her brother Bob Saussaye own the Vieux Carré Hair Shop, a 140-year-old business. Eugenie Saussaye, their great-grandmother, took it over in 1877 and began providing the French Opera House with wigs.
“She taught my father the business and my father taught me,” Highstreet says.
The business, which Highstreet and her brother took over in 1982, still works with the opera, but they also work with many of the city’s theater companies and provide wigs, beards and mustaches to most Mardi Gras royalty. They also sell to the general public such things as liquid latex, masks, face painting supplies, theatrical makeup and all the accessories needed to complete any Halloween look.
Throughout the years, Highstreet has seen many Halloween trends.
“About eight years ago vampires were popular,” she says, “I’m not seeing as many zombies this year, but clowns have come back big. Evil clowns, probably because of Stephen King’s movie ‘It’.”
Halloween is a big part of their business but Carnival accounts for about 45 percent of the company's revenue. Carnival season has always meant long hours, especially when the store was in the French Quarter. It is now located in the Riverbend neighborhood. (They saw no reason to change the name of their longstanding business.)
Rizzuto creates wigs and is well into his work for Carnival. Many of the crowns and hats have already been fitted with hairpieces. He’s also busy making the krewe’s beards and mustaches − one human hair at a time.
It’s all very secret,” he says. “I don’t even put names on boxes because it’s so secret.”
Highstreet has a daughter, a niece, and a nephew who help out with the shop and her almost 2-year-old grandson, Claude Estes, often sweeps the floors. He’s the beginning of the fifth generation to work there.
“We’ve all worked here for 40 years,” she says “This is all we know. This is our life and we love it.”
Vieux Carre Hair Shop
7813 Maple St.