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where there's smoke: A building under construction next to the Logan Police Station caught fire from a welder's spark. Damage was estimated at $50,000. / Photo by Gideon Oakes

Today's word on journalism

August 27, 2008

On protests at political conventions:

"The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There's nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women's suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets -- to the disgust or disappointment of some -- have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life."

--Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008

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Good luck a dominant strand in hairdresser's life

By Angeline Olschewski

May 12, 2008 | Five fire engines lined Main Street at 700 North, lights flashing. Black smoke rose from the roof of the Serendipity Salon as owner, Mary Hess, and her employees stood back and watched. She couldn't believe it.

A firefighter assured her the damage was minimal and the salon would be back to business in a day or two. It was just another example of the good luck that seems to follow her. The Serendipity name was chosen to honor the fortunate chain of events that brought Hess to this moment ­ a chain of events that all began with a lie.

For as long as she can remember, Hess has wanted to style hair. As a child, she would sit in her Aunt Leah's makeshift laundry room salon and roll perm rods in the hair of the mannequin heads. She would tell her aunt, "I want to be just like you."

During her senior year of high school, friends would ask what she planned to do after graduation.

"I would always say, 'I'm going to go to beauty school,'" Hess said. "I think they would kind of roll their eyes." Her parents were not fond of the idea either and offered to pay her way through school if she went to college.

"I know how important it was to them that I went to college," she said. "All I ever heard was you need to have a college education ... or you'll never get a job."

So Hess decided to appease her parents' wishes and pursue beauty school after college. She chose Utah State University because it was just two hours from her home of Burley, Idaho. Not too long into the semester, Hess was telling a friend how much she enjoyed college, but also how she wished it would pass quickly so she could go to beauty school.

The friend mentioned that there was a school here in Logan, and suddenly Hess' "wheels started turning." She realized that her out-of-state tuition could cover most of the cost of the beauty school tuition, and so she withdrew from USU, received the reimbursement and enrolled at New Horizons Beauty College.

"Whenever I'd go home for the scheduled Utah State breaks," Hess explains, "my parents would [ask] ‘How's it going?' And I would just let them believe that it was Utah State and said, ‘I'm doing so good. I'm making friends. I'm so passionate about what I'm doing; I just love it."

About a month before she graduated from New Horizons, Hess finally told her parents the truth. After she gave them all her reasons for leaving USU and told them of her plan to work and save up a little money while gaining her residency and then go back for her undergraduate degree, they accepted the news.

But life had other plans for Hess, plans that can only be described by her as "serendipitous." Six months after graduation, she married her high school boyfriend, Brad Hess. He was still in school, so Hess worked to put him through.

She had her eye on a position at a well-known salon, but their thorough application process took a little longer than she felt comfortable waiting with little income. She took a job at a hair cutting shop where she was not an employee, but paid booth rent, thereby making her self-employed. Two days after signing with them, the first salon called and offered her the job, which she turned down.

"I was shocked," Hess said. "I didn't accept the only job I ever wanted. Why would I do that? Maybe it's fate."

Though it was hard to walk away from what had been her dream job all through beauty college, she realized early on she enjoyed the independence self-employment gave her.

When she was first starting, building a clientele took a while, and she said she averaged ten cents an hour. About six months later, it was a different story.

"I went from having one appointment today to being booked," Hess said. "I remember feeling so silly when I asked people to book an appointment for six weeks." But within the year, she was booked out six weeks.

She heard of a new salon coming to Logan called Kakoi that to her knowledge was the first of its kind in the valley. She told her husband she wanted to move to Kakoi because she felt she had maximized her potential at her current place. Still, Hess was hesitant for the change and the possibility that her clients wouldn't follow.

"At the time I was doing $10 men's haircuts and $12 women's haircuts," she said, "and it would be a jump to almost double what I was charging." Hess said it gave her motivation to get even better at her job. She lost all but twenty percent of her clientele and started over again. Within six months, she was once again booked out six weeks.

Seven years into her career, she realized she was burning out from six days a week behind the chair. Hess said she felt depressed because it was all she wanted to do her whole life, and yet, "Every Sunday I'm crying because I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I felt stuck," she said.

Hess decided to take another leap of faith. She had plenty of evidence to know her instincts were good.

"My parents didn't want me to go to beauty school," she said, "I [didn't take] the job I thought I wanted, Brad didn't want me to go to Kakoi in the first place … here I am again at a crossroads going, ‘I cannot do this anymore. I can't feel this way about my job.'"

So she scaled back her days to three, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, giving her a four-day weekend each week and changed salons at the same time to give herself a fresh start.

"I didn't know what I was going to do the other two days a week," Hess said. "I knew I needed the money, but I knew I couldn't keep doing what I was doing."

During an appointment with long-time client Rob Young, she mentioned her new schedule and he teased that she should come work for him Mondays and Fridays at his dermatology clinic. Hess said, "Sure," and they both laughed, and then they both looked at each other and realized it could work.

For the last five years, Hess has spent Mondays and Fridays as a dermatologic technician. She works as an independent contractor and loves the work, she said.

"It was the best decision I could have made," she said.

After two years at the dermatology office, her current salon, Valhalla, announced it was moving out to Providence, Utah. Hess had been watching a property on Main Street next to Angie's, and when the move was announced, she again decided to unexpectedly change course.

"I thought, ‘I'm working harder than my bosses,'" she said. "I'm the first one there; I'm the last one to leave. I was getting fed up with caring more about the business where I worked than my employers."

Hess and her husband struck a deal with the Main Street property owner, and work began on the remodel. Though she was excited at the prospect, she was worried she was in over her head.

"We had to do everything on our own personal credit cards," Hess said. "We scrounged up every cent and every penny that we could."

In the last week of remodeling before the opening, Hess' husband slept at the salon on cardboard boxes, while finishing up the final touches.

"It was the worst week of my life," Hess said. "We didn't have a dollar to our name. I didn't even know how I was going to pay [the contractors]. I wondered if we'd made a mistake. It was the lowest of low."

Her husband was more confident that it would work out and be worth it.

"Since she started at Kakoi," Brad Hess said, "I don't think I've had a second thought about ‘should we do this or should we not,' because I believe in her."

The salon opened with the name Serendipity because Hess said, "All the things fell in place. I wasn't even looking for this, but now I'm so grateful for it."

Her clients have followed her from salon to salon and are thrilled at her success. One of these long-time clients is Sonya Young, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Dermatology where Hess is an aesthetics technician.

"I was overwhelmingly impressed with her professionalism," Young said of the first time she met Hess. "She's got a very professional manner about her, and she's always friendly."

Young has turned many people onto Hess' talent, including most of her office staff and extended family. She said she just happened to walk into Kakoi one day and Hess asked if she could help her. Young asked if they take same-day appointments and Hess said, "Yes" and showed her back to her station. When several people commented on how great her hair looked, she told them she had seen Mary Hess at Kakoi, and they all asked how she got an appointment with her?

"I didn't know she was hard to get into," laughs Young. "I didn't know I had the superstar of hair dressers in Logan."

A little while after opening her salon, Hess and her husband excitedly announced they were pregnant with their first child. As Hess tried to prepare her clients for her maternity leave, she received several panicked responses. She assured them she would be back a few months after the birth of her son, Charlie.

Hess wears many titles including, hairdresser, business owner, boss, dermatology technician, friend, daughter, wife and mother, but the last two are her favorites. Her husband, Brad, said of all her accomplishments, he was most proud to watch her give birth to their son.

If you want an appointment with Hess, you will need eight weeks notice and $37, but her clientele can assure you she's worth the wait and the wallet.

MS
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Copyright 1997-2008 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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