Tanya Kukrecht, European Wig Maker
Born on the 4th of July, Tanya was born in a small town in Yugoslavia where she grew up speaking Russian, Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian. Shortly after World War II, Tanya and her parents fled to Italy to escape communist rule. The family spent 2 years in a Displaced Persons camp waiting for their United States visas to be approved. Time was running out for Tanya. If the family did not receive their travel papers by the time Tanya turned 21, she would have to immigrate under a separate visa and would have to start the application process all over, possibly delaying her move to the U.S. for up to seven years. In desperation, Tanya wrote to the American Embassy explaining why she needed to come to America by July 4th (her birthday). Fortunately, the letter fell into the hands of someone interested in helping out this young woman whose birthday was on the same day as the birthday of the United States. Paper work was expedited and travel arrangements were made and the family immigrated to Philadelphia in time for Tanya to celebrate Independence Day and come of age in her new country.
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Tanya was not done in Europe though. Shortly after getting married, Tanya’s husband Robert was transferred by the American military to Germany to work as a translator. While they were stationed in Germany, Tanya apprenticed herself to a German hairdresser where she learned the fine art of wig making. After returning to Philadelphia, she finished Regency Cosmetology School and became a licensed hairdresser in 1963. Soon Tanya and her husband Robert opened a custom wig salon on Cottman Ave. in Philadelphia where they employed European-trained wig makers and stylists to custom make human hair wigs.
Moving to Florida
In 1982, asthma forced her to sell the business and retire to Florida where the climate was healthier. “I got my health back in Sarasota,” says Tanya. As soon as she was feeling better, she was ready to get back to work and was soon managing the hat and wig department at Maas Brothers in downtown Sarasota. In 1984, Robert bought a dress shop on Siesta Dr. in the Siesta Village Shopping Center called Shift Chalet. Soon the name was changed to Tanya’s Chalet, and she added wigs and a post-mastectomy department and slowly eliminated the other clothing. In the past year, she has found it necessary to move a few doors west and change the name of the business to Wigs and Post Mastectomy of Sarasota, but she is still providing the same great service she has become known for.