Good luck a dominant strand in
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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.