Wielding a comb, scissors and a sense of style

Custom Cuts is truly a family-run business. From left are Frank and Stella Caligaris, along with two of their children and members of the Custom Cuts team, Angie Barton and Jeff Springs. Photo by Carolyn Bahm.

Editor’s note: Our business feature stories appear in all four of the Journal West 10 newspapers in Shelby County. Check back weekly to learn about new and longtime businesses in Bartlett, Arlington, Lakeland and Bolton, as well as Millington, Collierville and Germantown. We also welcome your suggestions on who to feature next; email ideas to Bartlett Express Editor Carolyn Bahm at carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.


  • Address: 6600 Stage Road, Suite 111, Bartlett
  • Phone: (901) 388-5359
  • Hours: Closed Sundays and Mondays; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Frank and Stella Caligaris have seen many trends come and go in the 30 years their salon, Custom Cuts by Caligaris, has operated in Bartlett.

This year, Stella is seeing longer hair with a lot of vivid color as a hot trend for women. One of her newer stylists, Angel Davis, added that mermaid hair (a mix of colors like pink, purple and teal) is hot at the moment, along with festival hair (trendy styles, often multi-colored with braids and updos, for runways and special events).

Frank said they also see a lot of hard parts for men – a style with an area of closely trimmed hair that is next to a longer section, creating a natural part. MensHairstylesToday.com describes it as a shaved line in the scalp that provides definition and contrast and can be added to many styles, including faces, undercuts, combovers, pompadours, brush-ups and spiky hair.

They have seen these and other hot trends come and go over the years and have experimented with new services to keep their clients interested and happy.

Expertise in coloring hair is the salon’s specialty, but they also do the bread-and-butter work of any large salon: Cuts and styling for men, women and children, as well as all types of weaves, keratin smoothing treatments, balayage (a natural-looking highlighting process that uses painted-on dye for a graduated effect), ombre, perms, facial waxing, manicures and pedicures.

They have branched out into different services over the years, keeping what worked in the local market and dropping what didn’t.

“Over the years, we’ve tried it all,” Stella said, ticking off a list of former services that include cosmetics for proms and weddings, photographs of makeovers, skin care, steam rollers, spa treatments and tanning beds.

Alertness to trends, the willingness to try new things and the savvy to know when a trend is over have all helped the salon to flourish. The business has grown from 12 to 22 stylists over the years, including their son, Jeff Springs, who specializes in men’s haircuts and also handles the payroll. Their daughter, Angie Barton, works as the front-desk receptionist and handles all product ordering. Their other son, Tony Caligaris, isn’t in the family business; he lives in Hernando, Miss., where he works for the tax assessor’s office.

Stella started as a stylist herself and still cuts hair for a few family members and close friends. Frank, a former sales professional, worked the salon’s front desk for many years but now handles the clerical end of the business and equipment repairs.

Frank appreciates the salon’s long history. He enjoys the fact that former child customers are now bringing in their own children for hair care.

“It’s kind of a family thing. You know them as they come in the door,” he said. “… It makes it such a family-oriented business. We’ve been fortunate over the years to keep these people. It’s kind of a hand-me-down, generation to generation.”

His wife nodded. “We’ve seen them grow up.”

They smiled as they described building relationships over time with families – prepping young women for their weddings and proms, as well as handling their style emergencies. They have gotten gum out of hair, rescued young children from disastrous self-inflicted haircuts and soothed tearful clients who burst in with an empty box of hair color and a headful of accidentally orange hair.

As at any salon, some clients have learned the hard way. One trend the Custom Cuts owners were glad to see pass was the popularity of Mane & Tail shampoo (originally designed for horses), something that clients wouldn’t admit to using.

The problem was that the shampoo stretched hair out so badly that chemical treatments would make hair break, Jeff said.

It hasn’t always been “peaches and cream,” Frank said, but Custom Cuts has been with their clients through thick and thin.

Stella believes that good customer service has been behind their salon’s three decades of success. “Just treating people the way they need to be treated, like family.”

Frank added, “Be consistent with what you do.”

CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.

Debby Sumner has a long list of established clients after working at Custom Cuts for the past 26 years.