By Judy Wilson | Associate Editor
Deerfield Beach – It is said “everyone has a story” and when it comes to Hilda Cereza that assumption could not be more true. Her memory stretches back decades. Her recall of both her life and the people who have been part of it is marvelously intact.
And to illustrate her stories she can pluck a figurine, magnet, pennant or photo from the mirrors of the haircutting salon she has presided over since her husband Lou died in 1998 at age 56. Before that, her memories were shared with him.
She remembers their location in the Village Mart, and their permanent one 40 years ago when they moved the business to Palm Plaza. She also remembers who else was in the strip center on US 1 just north of Southeast 10 Street.
Most of those early businesses are gone now. Among the very few remaining are Gimler Plumbing, and American Legion Post 162. Nan’s Hideaway is now an Eagles bar called Uncle Kimmy’s.
Chiropractor Bill Longstreth closed his practice last year. Long gone are the butcher shop, an upscale Italian restaurant, The Dance Academy, a shoemaker, International Gems, the area’s first yoga studio, a rubber stamp store, antique and book stores, Boyce Associates, Newshott Realty, dentist Ernie Visco, attorney Arlan Birkman.
While much around her has changed, Cereza has not. And her business model is unique.
She opens Lou’s Haircutting every day and works steadily out of one chair. Although there are two more, she hires no business associates.
So, to get a haircut at Lou’s requires a certain amount of faith – and patience. She takes no appointments [there is no visible phone number]. If one secures the number, the call goes directly to voicemail.
Her regulars come in unannounced and either climb into her vacant chair or take a seat. They have done this many times before.
There is no rush.
Surrounded by beauty salons that provide all sorts of services, Cereza only cuts hair. No wash, no shave, no blow dry, no color. She deftly wields a comb, barber shears and a touchup razor. The price for men and children is $14, for women $15.50.
Among the hundreds of photos in her shop are those of unhappy youngsters getting a first haircut. She remembers them all. Last week, she proudly pointed to a faded picture of Kyle Van Buskirk as a blond teenager. He’s now the mayor of Lighthouse Point.
She is also proud to show off a sign proclaiming the 90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which she attended in 2016. Among the hundreds of momentos gifted by customers, are many from her own trips around the world.
Cereza came to America from Cuba in 1961. She was 15 and with her mother fled the Castro regime. She came out legally, remembering it took hours to get by the airport guards who searched every piece of their luggage, every pocket, every hemline looking to confiscate anything of value. Her father miraculously also escaped by a different route, and the family settled in Miami Beach.
It was there she met and married Lou. They moved to Deerfield Beach and raised a daughter and a son who are both honor graduates of Deerfield Beach High School and now live with their young families on Florida’s west coast.
After his death, she lived for a time behind the shop taking care of her elderly father. After one hurricane, her business neighbors provided her with electrical hookups, food and water to get her through the crisis.
As things change around her – some buildings are getting facelifts – Cereza has kept Lou’s façade intact. The front window still bears his name in big letters that likely don’t meet current sign codes.
She doesn’t know when those letters will come down – so much of her life revolves around the shop.
Asked when she might retire, she says, “I have no idea.”
Asked what she would change about her life she says, “I don’t think I would change a thing.”
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