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Frank Gray

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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Two holes, possibly from bullets, caused the spider web cracks in the front window of Penthouse Wigs, a shop on Broadway owned and operated by Vicki Densmore.

Local wig shop goes on as bullet mystery lingers

Along Broadway, about a block south of Zesto’s, is a small, street-level shop called Penthouse Wigs.

It’s an orderly little place that I’ve driven by thousands of times over the years. Once upon a time I’d notice it and wonder to myself who wears wigs these days. I don’t know.

As happens with familiar things, though, over the years the shop became invisible. I never took notice of it any more.

Then I got a call from a person who identified herself as a financial counselor at a local hospital.

Yes, she said, all the doctors and nurses and people who work in oncology at the hospital know about the shop. They send the patients there, the ones who are on chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer and whose hair has fallen out. The woman at Penthouse, Vicki Densmore, she said, would fit them with wigs.

Sometimes, when someone couldn’t afford a wig, she said, the woman would give them one for free. She did that not long ago for a young girl who was suffering from cancer.

Anyway, the financial counselor and a couple of friends dropped by the shop the other day and were appalled to find that someone had shot bullet holes in the windows of her shop. Winter was coming and there were these holes in the windows, and Densmore had suggested that she couldn’t afford to replace the glass.

It was awful, the woman said.

I dropped by the wig shop the other day and out of the back office stepped Densmore. She started working there more than 40 years ago and eventually bought the place when the owner branched out into other businesses.

A few of Densmore’s customers just don’t like messing with their own hair. Others are old, really old, and buy wigs and put on makeup and look a lot younger. Some have a condition that makes their hair fall out.

But most, about 75 percent of her customers, she said, are cancer patients.

When you have cancer there are tons of little expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, Densmore said, and one of those expenses includes wigs, so the wigs that she stocks are modestly priced, $85 to $150 or so.

Wigs have improved a lot in the last 10 to 20 years, though. The synthetic fibers look like real hair and have the texture of real hair.

Some people have suggested Densmore sell wigs online. She could sell a whole lot more that way, they say.

No, Densmore said. A wig is personal. It has to be fitted. If she sold them online 90 percent would come back anyway.

So she sells her wigs and is happy, she says, as long as she can keep the lights on and a roof over her head.

But what about the window? People say she can’t afford to have it fixed.

Densmore has no idea why anyone shot her window.

Maybe they were shooting at the mannequins in the window, she said. They used to do the same at a shop down the street.

Those holes, though, probably made by a pellet or BB gun, don’t go all the way through. The windows are six years old. It’s good glass. The spider web cracks spread a little from time to time, but it holds up.

She could get new windows. Insurance might even pay for some of it. But if she did, she said, she’d lie awake all night worrying about them.

So the people who know her can rest assured, the windows will hold and the wigs business will go on.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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