TAUNTON hair salon Combers has marked its 40th birthday with precious memories.

The Courtyard in the Independent Quarter was in party mood as hundreds of Combers clients old and new joined the celebrations.

A jazz band entertained the crowd and there was plenty of fun, fizz and birthday cake.

Director Simon Willetts, who launched the salon in a single room in The Courtyard, said he was "overwhelmed" by wellwishers' response.

"People showed me photographs of themselves having their hair done at Combers for their wedding 30 years ago, or their school prom from last year," he said.

"Others told me how they came to the salon needing a new style for a job interview or to have a terrible haircut done somewhere else put right. I can't count the number of mums who said they had their first haircut at the salon as teenagers who are now in their forties and their daughters are regular clients.

"We call our customers guests but they are really part of our family because we have been privileged to share so many happy and special memories with them over the decades."

Simon was 20 when he started Combers when The Courtyard was launched as a retail development in May 1982.

TV presenter Judith Chalmers formally opened the venue and was the first client.

"I was really nervous because Judith was such a big name and there were loads of people crowded round taking photographs," said Simon.

"But she put me at ease and was delighted with my efforts. She said she couldn't get a better cut in London."

Combers is the only business from that time still trading. Over the years, Simon has expanded the salon which last year underwent a £250,000 refurbishment and is now the largest premises in the Independent Quarter.

"I started out with one assistant and a trainee," he added.

"Today, there are 15 stylists, six graduate trainees in the Combers Academy, three front of house service co-ordinators and three administrators More than 60 per cent of our staff have been with us for 10 years. We are the largest salon in Taunton with clients coming from Bristol and Bath as well as across Devon and even into Cornwall.

"People often ask how we have managed to stay at the top and my answer is everything we do is client-centred.

"In addition, we have talented staff who benefit from courses in London and Miami and learning from top stylists around the country who come to Combers. Over the years, we have trained over 200 stylists who are now working in leading salons across the UK."

Combers is used to celebrities popping into the salon. One of Simon's happiest memories was when Somerset and England cricketer Ian Botham was making his sponsored walk from John o'Groats to Land's End.

Simon said: "Ian was booked in for a cut and colour and it was all shown live on the BBC's Noel's House Party. It was chaotic but a lot of fun and Ian was a real gent."

Simon and his wife, Carolyn, are delighted their son Cameron, 23, has joined as a director at Combers. He has already worked with runway models at New York's Fashion Week and is leading the salon's drive to be more sustainable.

Cameron said: "We have a long standing relationship with Italian firm, Davines who create beautiful products that are kind to the environment and are ethically sourced while offering natural goodness and quality to our client.

“I am attending the World Wide Hair Tour, with my dad, which this year is in Italy, where I will get an opportunity to reconnect with hairdressers that I have not worked with since the first lockdown."