Kansas City Star

Story Behind The Story


Before I imagined a day would come when I’d be asked for an  interview, I was a salon assistant who drove to work hating my job.

The high end customer salon world was not what I expected.

In the winter my fists would crack and bleed from doing shampoos all day, but when I left college for cosmetology school my dad said “don’t be a quitter. See this through”, so I stuck it out. I ended up loving it. Had I had quit, I would not be who I am today.

Around the year 2000, majority ownership changed hands. It didn’t take long to sense change. The stylists from Chicago went back to Chicago, the owners came less, and the local stylists started leaving. I was close to two stylists who had already left for a small salon in West Plaza.

They told me there was one chair left. If I wanted it I needed to act fast, I hesitated. Another stylist that already left didn’t like her new salon took the open chair.

Life Inventory 

A few days later I sat on a bench staring at the tennis courts across the street alone in the empty upstairs cutting gallery waiting for my next client. Many think the success of a salon can be gauged on whether it “looks busy”, I knew this wasn’t true. But business overhead was something I did know.  I saw a rent check once in the office. That cost alone was way over what I made in a year.

I took a “life inventory”. A few years earlier my parents had moved our family construction company to Springfield. My sister soon followed. My best friends from high school were graduating college and starting jobs during a 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 and had serious doubts about my choices, my future, and myself. I’ve always been a social butterfly. In that moment I was acutely aware of how alone I felt.  

What’s Job “Security”?

I started stashing my tips and 15% of my paycheck, in case I’d be jobless soon. A few months later I was digging through the Sunday paper and came across the commercial lease listings and I circled and ad for a loft on 39th street. 

My tip jar had a little over $2400, and I had zero desire to own a salon, but I was not a fan of the uncertainty of my circumstances.

 Three days later, as I viewed the space, my inner monologue was battling. One side of my brain said “No way we’re doing this”, but the other side said kept repeating “change comes at a price.”

I asked the guy showing me the space for a moment alone. 

The stairway sucked and the bus stop outside was sketchy- but I could see myself there.

s…ingLittle Did I Know…


I recall that day on the bench thinking:

“Why didn’t I go with my friends?”

Why did I leave college for hair school?”

“Why didn’t I just stay work for my parents?”

But little did I know… within 3 years the salon I was sitting in and the salon my friends left for, would both be closed.

Little did I know the the dot.com bubble had already burst. Soon a mortgage crash would follow and pull construction with it, starting a 10 year recession.

And little did I know I was in a fairly recession resilient industry.

Studio 39 made me grow up fast because the responsibility of it took a chunk of my youth. But it has also my life preserver many times in many ways, and for the others too. 

Looking back..

Any business owner knows it’s difficult to emotionally detach when making hard choices, but last year I read my old salon owner, my hair mentor, bought back majority shares of his company at 70% LESS than what he’d sold for in the early 2000’s. Saaavy! 🔥

It’s funny. Now I realize 23 years ago how hard his decision to sell must have been. I thought only of how his choice had me pondering MY life on HIS bench, and thank God. Looking back that moment on his bench taught me 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, but whether its says wait or GO- now I listen.

I never planned on being a salon owner, I just bought my job security. I never tried to grow the salon, I just filled business needs when I saw them.

I wish I knew what happened to that bench because it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

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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.❤️💎