St. John's issues warning to 'Curl Up and Dye' hair salon — but the shop isn't real

·4 min read

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The City of St. John's issued a warning to a downtown home last week for operating an unauthorized hair salon — but the "Curl Up and Dye" beauty parlour is just a set piece for a locally filmed television show.

The bright-red window sign advertising the fictitious hair salon has been attracting double-takes and chuckles from passersby ever since the crew of Citytv's "Hudson and Rex" put it up in Anne Pickard-Vaandering's front window, she said in an interview Thursday.

She said she never imagined it would also attract a letter from the city claiming the fictional business was operating without a proper permit.

"This obviously was an honest mistake," Pickard-Vaandering said, emphasizing that she wasn't trying to shame the city by sharing her story. "But this is hilarious. My guts hurt from laughing."

The fictitious "Curl Up and Dye" beauty parlour first brought smiles to St. John's when a neighbour of Pickard-Vaandering posted a picture of the shop's sign on Facebook. The post was shared hundreds of times, mostly by curious people applauding the salon's clever name. Pickard-Vaandering chimed in to say the house belonged to her and her husband and that it wasn't actually a beauty parlour.

Instead, the shop had a role in the locally produced cop-and-dog show "Hudson and Rex." With permission from Pickard-Vaandering, the show's crew installed a bright-red window decal before filming on her street on Aug. 8. They painted her window and door frames jelly-bean red to match the lettering.

Pickard-Vaandering said she was out of town when the decal was installed, adding that she howled with laughter when she returned to see the results. It was raining the day the sign was supposed to come down, so she just kept everything the way it was.

Besides, it's just so fun, she said, noting that Carrie Fisher's character in the "The Blues Brothers" also worked at a salon called Curl Up and Dye.

The sign has also brought people together, Pickard-Vaandering added. Before her husband bought the house in 2006, it had actually been home to a few beauty parlours, most recently to a shop called Mark of Elegance. She learned through comments on social media that Bertha's Beauty Parlour was there before that.

"So many people made comments like, 'I had my first job there; I used to have to go in and work on the mannequins,'" Pickard-Vaandering said. "A really lovely part of the story is that other people got connected through me sharing that post, and they got to remember things from years ago."

As for the City of St. John's, the letter she received Monday said an official inspected the property and concluded that the "Curl Up and Dye" salon did not have the appropriate approvals to operate. The business was in violation of four sections of city bylaws, the letter said.

The letter warned of fines as high as $5,000 for each "deficiency."

Julian Vaandering contacted the city on Tuesday to explain. When nobody responded, Anne Pickard-Vaandering shared the city's letter on social media on Thursday. The city has since contacted them to say the file is closed, she said.

Pickard-Vaandering said she has no hard feelings against the city and that she understands that inspector was only doing his or her job.

"But I would say due diligence might begin with a phone call," she said. "You know, 'I'd like to make an appointment for a perm!'"

The City of St. John's said someone filed a complaint on Aug. 10 about a business operating in the house without nearby residents having been notified about its plans, according to an emailed statement. An inspector had a look and decided it was "likely a business was operating without approvals," said the email from spokesperson Kelly Dyer.

She noted there are salons in other provinces with the name "Curl Up and Dye."

The city confirmed the case has been closed, though the statement said if Pickard-Vaandering wants to keep the window sign up, it will have to meet St. John's heritage regulations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2022.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press