Kansas City Star

Story Behind The Story

Long before I ever imagined being interviewed by the Kansas City Star, I was a salon assistant who drove to work every day hating my job. The high end customer service world was far less glamourous than what I expected. In the winter when I’d make a fist, the skin on the back of my hand would crack and bleed. When I left college for cosmetology school my dad said “don’t be a quitter and see this through”. So I didn’t want to be a quitter at the first salon that hired me and I stuck it out.

I ended up loving it and worked there for almost 5 years. If I had quit, I would not be the stylist I am today. 

Around the year 2000 majority ownership changed hands. It didn’t take long to sense change. The stylists from Chicago either left, or went back to Chicago, the owners came less, and the local talent was leaving. I was close to two stylists who had already left to work in a small salon in West Plaza. They told me there was one chair left, but if I wanted it- I needed to act fast. I hesitated. Another stylist who had already left did not like the owner of her new salon, she decided to take it.

Inventory on Life

A few days later I sat on a bench in the empty upstairs cutting gallery waiting for my next client.  I knew you couldn’t gauge the success of a salon on whether it “looks busy” like many think, but I did understand overhead. I saw a rent invoice once when I was in the office, the monthly cost was way over what I made in a year. I stared at the tennis courts across the street and took a “life inventory.”

A few years earlier my parents had moved our family construction company to Springfield for the Branson building boom. My sister soon followed. My best friends from high school were graduating college. Many were starting jobs during the busy dot.com era. Some took a year off to backpack through Europe. Now my closest salon friends had moved on too.

I was 23. I had serious doubts about my future and myself. I’ve always been a social butterfly but for the first time in my adult life, I felt very alone.

What’s Job “Security”?

I started stashing my tips and 15% of my paycheck just in case I wouldn’t have a job soon. Because that’s what it felt like.

A few months later I was digging for the sports page in a Sunday paper of the Kansas City Star. I came across the commercial real estate listings and circled an ad for a loft on 39th street. I had saved a little over $2400. I had zero desire to own a salon, but I didn’t like the uncertainty of my circumstances. When I went to see the space my inner monologue was in a battle. One side of my brain said “What are you doing!?”  The other side said “change comes at a price.” I thought yeah, literally and figuratively. So I shut my inner crazy off and asked the man who showing me the space if I could have a moment to walk through alone.

The stairs sucked and the bus stop by the door was super sketch, but I could see myself there.

Little Did I Know…

I remember sitting on the bench that day thinking “Why didn’t I go with my friends? Why did I leave college for hair school and just stay with my parents?”

Little did I know… the salon I was sitting in and the salon my friends went, would both close within 3 years. I didn’t know the dot.com bubble had already burst, or in a few years a mortgage banking crash would occur, pulling most of America’s construction down with it. And little did I know the US would enter a 10 year recession and was in a recession resilient industry.

Studio 39 made me grow up fast. In a way I missed part of my youth, but it was also my life preserver many times in many ways. Any business owner knows it’s difficult to emotionally detach when making hard choices. Last year I read somewhere my hair mentor became majority shareholder of his company again by buying it back at a price 70% LESS than what he’d sold for. Saaavy! 🔥 It’s funny because 20 years ago I now realize how hard his decision to sell was. His choice had me pondering MY life on HIS bench. Thank God because I learned two valuable things.

  • Don’t let self doubt define you, you’re always one choice away from a different life.
  • I didn’t know I was listening to my gut instinct. Now whether its says  wait or GO- I listen.

I never planned on being a salon owner, I just bought job security. I never tried to grow the salon, I just tried to fill business needs when I saw them. I wish I knew what happened to that bench. Looking back, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Kansas City Star Article

Kansas City Star Site

Master Stylist and Owner

Thank you Kansas City Star for helping me find my first space for Studio 39 and for this article.

Thank you Anne Kniggendorf for writing it.

THANK YOU to Meg my right hand.

Most of all, thanks to my staff for not being quitters.

You are Studio 39.❤️💎