Cancer survivor opens wig shop in downtown
Sitting through six cycles of chemotherapy between September 2017 and January 2018, Danielle Izzo began to formulate an idea for a business that could improve the lives of people who receive wigs during treatment.
The 38-year-old Ridgefield resident said there’s a prevalent misconception of wigs looking outdated and unfashionable.
“They’ve come a long way, they are not where they used to be,” Izzo said.
That’s why she decided to open Danielle Elizabeth Wigs, located at 409 Main Street, following her duel battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The store, which opened on June 1, is looking to help anyone who needs an artificial hair piece — whether it stems from medical issues or simple hair loss.
“Everyone is doing it, no one talks about it,” Izzo said concerning the commonality of people wearing wigs.
Danielle Elizabeth Wigs, which also aims to help bring a sense of security to other cancer survivors and change the stigma surrounding wigs, caters to people looking for one-on-one appointments, fitting clients with their exact wig needs.
“We can match your color, or a color close to it,” Izzo said.
Izzo’s journey started back in fall of 2016, when she began to realize she was symptomatic.
It started with a general uncomfortability and a persistent itch, common symptoms of classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It wasn’t until that July that I saw an infectious disease doctor,” she said, “and they discovered that my lymph nodes were swollen.”
Eventually during the summer of 2017, Izzo was diagnosed with classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Doctors then discovered another mass, which they diagnosed as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, “they found another mass separate from the classic Hodgkin’s, which is more aggressive,” she added.
This is when Izzo’s chemotherapy treatment started; the doctors wanted to combat this more aggressive mass immediately.
Following six cycles of chemotherapy, one cycle being every three weeks for a three-day period, Izzo was cancer free. Her last treatment was mid-January and four weeks later she received the good news that the chemotherapy had worked.
Setting up shop
Izzo said that nothing like her shop exists for people who want a wig.
Rather than open a retail store, Izzo wanted a personal shopping environment in which she can help clients find the perfect wig.
“When I help people, I work one-on-one consultations, client by client,” she said.
Izzo said she needed to find the perfect location to begin her business venture.
When looking at locations, there was a minimum 30-minute commute for her in the morning. Being a Ridgefield native, Izzo began looking closer to home, and found “the perfect store” on Main Street.
Izzo decided on the location because of the communities reception to her and other store owners.
“I see how welcoming the community is,” she said.
Focusing on her principal mission of individual consultations, Izzo was looking for a shop that was, “something small, catering like a boutique, not a full fledged retail store.”
Wigs, wigs, wigs
Izzo tries to carry a lot of variety.
“There’s a blend — so many different people in different situations,” Izzo said. “We have something that’s $3,000; we have something that’s $150.”
“It really depends on the person,” Izzo said when describing the types of wigs she would recommend to clients.
When clients walk into her store they are first confronted with the ambient noise of current pop music that fills the space. Then a center table that has a wide range of toppers and headwear, surrounded by wigs displayed on the wall in varying styles, colors, and lengths.
One of the first questions that Izzo asks when beginning a one-on-one fitting is, “what is your lifestyle?” Depending on if her client is working, not working, wants discretion, or doesn't mind people knowing, will alter the type of wig she recommends.
The main variable in picking out a wig is if the client cares if it’s noticeable or not. If a client is working through chemo, then Izzo will recommend a human hair wig that looks almost unnoticeable, unless you’re trying to spot it.
If someone is looking for a simple wig to cover their head, and don’t want to break the bank, then she’ll recommend a synthetic wig.
While Izzo started her business based on her hair loss during chemo, she also caters to men and women who are simply thinning.
As her sign says out front, Izzo carries toppers, extensions, headwear, as well as wigs.
The main aspect of Izzo’s shop is to provide one-on-one client fittings. “I close the door, I close the curtains, so they don’t see you sitting here,” she said, gesturing to the couch positioned near the windows.
While some clients don’t mind the door being open and people seeing, others prefer personal and private sessions, and that is what Izzo provides during individual consultations in her shop.
The process of fitting a client with a wig is quite simple, and does not take a lot of time. Izzo carries mostly medium-sized wigs in her shop so she can get a base size. Then she can order a correct fitting wig, with the color and style the client wants after the meeting.
“We go based on head size and they can say, ‘I want that way in that color’ and we can order it”, Izzo said.
Changing the stigma
Izzo said her goal is to change the negative outlook on wigs.
“I wanted to change that, there needs to be an improvement, because women are dealing with hair loss, without medical problems, and men deal with thinning.”
Izzo has seen how modern wigs are becoming, to the point where they are barely noticeable, and she is determined to end the era of the “grandma’s wig” stigma.
Izzo has had the first hand experience of losing hair due to chemotherapy, and how that affects your sense of self and your esteem.
“When you don’t recognize the person staring back at you, it upsetting,” she said regarding her experience with hair loss, “but I think with a little makeup and a wig, you feel better then you look.”
Throughout her journey, Izzo saw a wig as a security blanket that helps cancer patients and survivors through the hair loss.
“It makes you feel, somewhat, a little normal again,” she said.
“I am overwhelmed with appreciation on how the community has responded to it, and my goal is to change the thoughts in people’s heads about a place like this.”