David B. Sutton

ORANGE SLICES

By Laurie Paolicelli

DB Sutton & Company, West Franklin Street.

Franklin Street in Chapel Hill has often been the stretch of downtown that has held the longevity of businesses which are funky, exotic, homespun and often locally owned. It’s a spirited exuberance beautifully personified by David Branch (aka db) Sutton, proprietor of a popular hair salon at 406 W. Franklin Street. Admittedly, DB Sutton & Company has changed over the years, yet it remains one of the best hair salons in town — that will never change. It now boasts an expansive, meticulously curated wine selection and a glamor fashion boutique. “Businesses,” David says, “must reinvent themselves in big or small ways to stay relevant today.” db sutton has done just that.

David Sutton, DB Sutton & Company Wine Shop.

David has been on Franklin Street for almost three decades. Yes, Franklin Street has changed, says the 1992 UNC graduate, but that’s ok with him. “Today’s audience is different, and they want different things and watching an evolving town like this is fun. I don’t always love the design aesthetics. Much of it I let slide off my back but some things irritate.” For instance: “I know CBD is the new cool thing but does it have to come with neon lights that stay on all night long?” This is coming from a man who makes his living by knowing aesthetics. David chuckles, rolls his eyes but then goes back to talking about how much he loves the Chapel Hill community. There’s a vibe here that he adores.

Several years ago, David was recognized by the town as a strong leader of the LGBTQ community. Sutton describes this recognition as symbolic “…that you can be out and own a business and not be targeted.” He goes on to say that “it’s really valuable to be in a community that is so exceptional and supports you like that.”

David remains steadfast in the business community and would like to see more locally-owned businesses given incentives for staying downtown. “I am a supporter of corporate chains but my feeling is that when you walk into a locally owned store, they are generally more friendly. That’s an oversimplification but these local owners have ‘skin in the game’ and they hire people who are an extension of their work ethic. They want to add a warm, personable experience to the business.”

DB Sutton and Julie Jennings from Uniquities.

Like his business, David has changed with the town. He’s wanted different things in his life and has made them happen. “At one point I loved living downtown and walking everywhere and hanging at favorite haunts like Crook’s Corner. As the neighborhood changed, he bought a home in Orange County, near Efland, that sits on many acres of land. I love the peace and quiet. I still love Hillsborough Bake Shop where Aaron Vandemark reinvented his Panciuto space) and I enjoy hanging out on Churton Street too.” He also spends time in France’s Loire Valley, where he continues to deepen his appreciation of wine and their ability to communicate a sense of place.

Originally from Murfreesboro (30 miles east of Roanoke) North Carolina, David grew up in a working-class family who had a strong entrepreneurial and ambitious streak. To this day many of David’s family members still live in North Carolina and continue to be a great source of support. He is very close to his family and it is great for him to get to see them frequently.

David graduated from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a degree in English. However, he realized soon after graduation that the 9-5 job lifestyle wasn’t for him. At age 50 he returned to school at Wake Forest University to obtain his MBA. He decided to pursue his love for hair by opening a shop on Franklin Street. His first entry was at Salon 135 on East Franklin at the original location. He took a short break to live in Asheville and then moving back, he opened his space at 406 West Franklin Street. He started by renting his space, but eventually ended up buying his building as well as the adjacent building as his dream became a reality.

David continues to tweak his shop, recently adding a little boutique in 2018 called Simply Audrey. “I rent the space inside the shop to a friend who has an eye for what’s hip. I am a big believer in collaboration and working together to build a destination.”

Dani Sklar, DB Sutton & Company Manager.

As for David, his expertise will always be hair and wine. His shop hosts free wine tastings on weekends and small parties that attract a loyal clientele.

“One of the reasons I love doing hair is that I listen to my clients and learn about myself. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I enjoy the discussions and openness and always get a little wisdom out of this human connection.”

David Sutton is a happy man. He loves his space and his shop window, open to all of the ever-changing downtown life. He does have one small gripe: the town took his planter away when the arborist had to cut down a tree out front. “I’d love to get it back,” he says. “I have visions of a red maple tree out there.”

A small gripe, perhaps, but David knows who he is and what he wants: to be surrounded by elegant beauty, by interesting and engaging people, and delicious wine.

You’ll get a warm welcome at DB Sutton & Company by the entire staff: Adriah Hooten, Paula Gildner, Grant Tennille, Dani Sklar, Sophie Krejci, Grace Commins, Russel Herrington, and Maggie Ferguson.

DB Sutton & Company.


Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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