What does it take to run a Beauty Salon? According to Kathy Obermiller, owner of Kathy’s Exquisite Beauty Salon, a person has to know how to listen. Furthermore, the art of listening extends far beyond “take an inch off the top”. The relationship between a Hair Stylist and their customer is really about the current and future image of the customer. Discussions can be wide-ranging, including family, friends, pets, politics, weather, and any or all of the things that affect life. In effect, Kathy fulfills roles that can range from her job out to friend, advisor, and sometimes even mother confessor. She and her long-time friend/coworker Sharon Schwaderer have been ministering to the cosmetologically needs of Loup City for over 55 years!
Kathy should know about cosmetology; she started in May of 1965. She’d always liked to cut hair, starting as a young woman with her family (haircuts for brothers, styles for Sisters, even giving the dog and cat an occasional trim!), then heading to Hastings Beauty Academy in 1962. Upon graduation her life, as often happens, took an abrupt turn when she married Richard, her husband of 57 years. She and Richard then left for a 3-year posting in Germany where he was assigned to the Army Security Agency. Upon returning, Kathy opened her first salon in downtown Loup City. She said it was tough, taking the first year to build a clientele, and a total of 3 years to pay off the loans and payments she needed to start the business up. With some help from family in 1978, she and Richard moved to their current residence on 249 North 7th Street and built the shop into the southern part of the duplex. Looking back, it took Kathy 16 years to reach the final shape of the dream she had on that first day at the Hastings Beauty Academy in 1962. In our current environment of “instant gratification”, her journey is the kind of success story that illustrates the true value of persistence.
Kathy considers her job as full time, conducting most of her business through appointments, though she does take occasional walk-ins. She does a weekly round at Rose Lane, offering her services for a minimal fee to the residents. When asked what was best about running her own Salon, she replied, “Something new all the time, meeting people, and having the ability to create as a job”. Of course, constant variety does not come without risk; in addition to weather and power issues, she has had to call for emergency medical support several times over the years as customers had heart or breathing issues during their appointments! There have also been cultural changes. Although she did both haircuts and styling from the beginning, in the last ten years, she has seen a steady up-tick in the numbers of her male customers. She notes that men are generally in a hurry, and not too worried about the look of their haircuts, while women invariably take their time and are extremely involved in how they will look with their new styling.
In addition to running the Salon, Kathy has other interests. She has been a Sunday School teacher in the Lutheran Church for over 50 years and is active in the Lutheran Women’s Group and other Church activities. She’s also the current President of the American Legion Auxiliary (her third tour as President!) and has been on several State Auxiliary committees. From 2004 to 2005, she was elected the Auxiliary District 6 President. She’s an avid gardener and enjoys working with ceramics. She also likes to decorate, evidenced by the interesting home style décor of their house, the Salon, and the surrounding yard. Finally, she is a great cook; the result of many years of practice and learning.
Despite being a little north of 70, Kathy intends to keep cutting and styling hair for the foreseeable future. She obviously enjoys the work and plans to continue with it as long as she is able. She does recognize the fact of her age, noting that when buying gift certificates for their Mom or Dad, sometimes the adult children of her customers will ask; “You Are planning on staying open for the next year or so, aren’t you?”! Regardless, Kathy loves the work, and she still finds her customers becoming friends, and relishes turning mops into smart looking styles.
Kathy’s Exquisite Beauty Salon is the first in a monthly article “Business of the Month,” from the Loup City Area Chamber of Commerce. Copies of the articles can be found on the Chamber Website (www.loupcitychamber.org). Future months will showcase some of your favorite local businesses and possibly even newer ones you hadn’t yet heard of. The order of selection is random, yet we are proud to write about Kathy’s Exquisite Beauty Salon and it’s 70-years young proprietor as our first entrée.