Waldo's on High celebrates 25 years

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

There were 25 candles this year on the birthday cake for the salon at 755 N. High St. An impressive number, said former owner Pati Young.

"For a hair salon especially to still be running after that amount of time," she said, "is almost unheard of."

Waldo's on High was one of several to take a gamble and develop in a sorta seedy but burgeoning art area called the Short North in the mid-1980s.

The salon turned into an anchor for the arts district and is one of the few original businesses of the area as we know it left standing.

That's not to say it hasn't had its growing pains - much like the Short North itself - from rebellious avant-garde art showcase to mature purveyor of its industry.

The salon's story begins with, of all things, a persnickety kitty named Waldo.

Two 25-year-olds, Johanna Teschner-Breitbart and Michael Evans, founded the salon. Johanna and her husband, William, owned the cat, who "liked the finer things in life," William told the Dispatch. It was a sentiment they wanted potential customers to identify with, thus the namesake.

The salon opened at Buttles and High at the end of 1985, gaining attention through the art showcased in its windows, a unique inventory idea for a beauty salon at the time.

Waldo's moved a block up the street a couple years later as the city began to realize that the district could be a cultural boon for Columbus.

Young began working at Waldo's in 1987. She said the area was up-and-coming but still risky.

"It was frightening," she recalled. "There were hookers in the doorway who looked at you like, 'What are you doing here?'"

It wasn't until 1995, she said, that "people started moving into the area and being less afraid."

By that time, Young was the owner. (Evans has since passed away and Teschner-Breitbart has left the business. Both, Young said, should be remembered as water for the roots of the Short North.)

Waldo's hit a stride during Young's tenure. It was a badass of the art scene, titillating the public with monthly exhibits, provocative but tasteful window displays and performance art shows in the basement.

There were also hair artists galore, many of whom have gone on to style for Hollywood movies.

It was the spot where artists like painter Ron Arps got their breaks before moving on to commercial galleries and prominent careers.

Young sold the space in the summer of 2007 to 27-year-old OSU dance student-turned-stylist Christine Chamness. Young wanted to teach yoga, and Chamness "wanted to take the salon to the next level," Chamness said.

Under Chamness' watch, Waldo's artistic focus shifted from multiple media to just hair design. There are fewer art shows these days, but it's now a L'Oreal Elite salon. And the stylists have additional creative outlets, participating in photo shoots and educational courses Chamness sets up.

In its adult years, Waldo's faces new challenges, as does the Short North - issues of parking, market saturation, real estate stalling.

But if history is any indicator, those kinks too shall be tamed.

"When I first started, we were making change out of a cigar box," said Young, who will be moving to California this year. "Waldo's helped me live life to its fullest and its richest."

It's a legacy Chamness intends to continue. Plans for more spa offerings and perhaps additional locations abound.

Twenty-five years from now, she said, you can expect to see that many more candles on its cake.

Waldo's on High

755 N. High St., Short North



Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday