Columbus’ iconic hair stylist trades scissors for paint brush amid pandemic

Pandemic Postcards

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Penzone Hair Salons is an iconic brand in Columbus, styling many of the on-air talents here at NBC 4.

Charles Penzone was the man behind the brand for 52 years, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, he retreated to the basement of the world’s largest hair salon.

He said that move may have saved his life.

“You’ll love this story about why the Today show came in,” Penzone said excitedly, holding a Styrofoam cup of coffee.

Penzone’s got stories. The nearly 76-year-old owns the most dominant line of salons in central Ohio. COVID-19 shut them down for nine weeks.

“OK. COVID hits and you say, ‘OK, I’m going to start painting?” NBC 4’s Brad Johansen asked.

“Yes,” Penzone responded matter of factly.

“No, it doesn’t happen like that,” Johansen said.

“Yes, it happened like that,” Penzone insisted.

He was in the highest risk category with underlying conditions.

“I’m not nearly tall enough for my weight,” Penzone said.

So he bought a bunch of canvases, a lot of paint, watched some YouTube videos and got to work.

“I knew it had to be abstract impressionism because it’s forgiving,” Penzone said of his selected style.“I figure I’ve got about 1,200 hours of painting. I’m here about 4 to 6 hours every day.”

He’s collected art for 55 years.

“I have the attention span of a three year old,” he said, dotting an unfinished work with red paint. Penzone has been defining what’s esthetically pleasing right out of high school.

“I wasn’t a great student as a kid,” he recalls, “because I was, like, ‘You’re going to open up a beauty salon someday. What do you need to know geometry and algebra for?’”

Penzone chose to put his art work on six-foot canvases.

“We’re standing in the world’s largest hair salon,” he said, motioning around the painting space. “You just have to do big! That and I think it has to do with the Napoleonic complex I have.”

Penzone doesn’t sell the paintings.

“This is our house as well, this is in our guest house,” he said.

And there’s plenty of salon wall space. His wife Debbie has run the business for the last 10 years, so this was his salvation.

“I’ve picked up something that I absolutely love, and I got to spend unbelievable great time with my wife,” Penzone gushes.

He’s fully vaccinated now, and business is returning to normal. He’s been through seven major economic setbacks and insists, you always get through it.

“When is it done?” Johansen asked about the paintings. “When do you know it’s done?”

“When you sign it,” Penzone said, adding his signature to another painting.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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