Melissa Randall, owner of Hairy’s Salon, caught her first break in business when she was 8 years old.
The story starts with her adoptive father on the military base near where she was being raised.
“He was mad because at the base it cost $3 to cut his hair and he was half bald. He thought he should get a discount,” Randall says.
The military barber didn’t agree, though.
“He bought some clippers and came home, and he was like, ‘Here, you want to cut hair? Cut my hair.’ And he gave me a quarter,” she says.
Other men in his Army unit caught wind of the quarter deal and started coming over to the house for haircuts.
“All I had to do was push clippers around like lawnmowing a head. I was the richest 8-year-old in town,” Randall says.
Randall’s father helped her find a positive outlet in her dogged pursuit to be a hairstylist. Beginning around age 6, any friends who would stay at her house were shipped home with cut and dyed hair. And she would be promptly grounded.
“I got into a lot of trouble. I would ride my pink Huffy with my allowance to the store to buy box hair color,” she says. “I was just obsessed from as long as I can remember.”
When her social life suffered enough from being grounded, and before she started cutting her father’s hair, she turned her attention to the family dogs and cats. She gave them haircuts – but only so they’d look like other animals.
“For example, I shaved the cat, but I left hair on its tail and on the back of its legs because I wanted to pretend it was a horse. It did not look like a horse, however,” she recalls.
As time went by, she continued to roller-set her adoptive mother’s hair and cut the hair of many soldiers in the unit on base.
By the time she was 16, she enrolled in vocational technology training for hairstylists. She finished when she was 18 and started working for a salon in Sacramento, California.
She continued her work, met and married her husband, had three children and moved to Springfield in 1993 for her husband Ed’s job as property management director with O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY). She built a clientele in a place where she didn’t know anyone and in a town she had never even visited.
Randall worked for Beauty Mart until 1997, and then she got a job at Hairy’s Salon, which was founded by Claudia Underwood in 1985. The opportunity to purchase the business surfaced six months after she started.
“I didn’t want to move my clients again,” she explains as part of the reason for making the purchase.
It’s always operated on Sunshine Street.
She moved the business from its original 1710 E. Sunshine St. spot after losing half the parking lot when Sunshine was widened. She then settled in at 1916 E. Sunshine St. but moved to a single bay in the Lambeth Building at 1936 E. Sunshine St., Ste. C, to follow a different business strategy.
“Initially, Hairy’s was 12 stations, then I pared it down to eight and this last one I made three,” Randall says. “All the salons in town keep focusing on getting bigger and bigger and bigger and additional locations. I actually felt a pull to go the complete opposite of that. You have 35 stylists, 35 clients and back-up staff. How can anyone speak freely?”
The salon ran with about eight stylists during its first 16 years and brought it down to three in the years following. She is currently the only stylist in the salon and doesn’t see that changing.
In making the decision, Randall says she considered her own life – those rare moments when she is able to take time for herself. She doesn’t want to be surrounded by strangers; she wants to connect with people.
“People come in and it’s just them and me, and I can focus,” she says.
Leilani Hagan, who has been Randall’s client for over 15 years, says she appreciates the more intimate feel.
“It’s so much less hectic in a smaller salon. She has made it almost like a day spa atmosphere,” says Hagan, a partner at accounting firm Hagan, Tucker, Schmitt & Gintz LLC. “She is much happier there, too.”
The salon carries products from Joico, Keratin Complex, American Crew and Albertini International. Declining to disclose annual revenue, Randall says it’s “enough to make me happy.”
“I was taught, ‘If you chase money, you never catch it. Anything you chase runs.’ At the end of the day that’s not what life is about,” she says. “I realize that in business that’s kind of stupid: money’s not your goal. But it never has been. I have checks and balances to make sure that I’m not doing something and going in the hole for it, but I’m just not focused on it.”
Best of Luck Beer Hall began operations; Springfield gained a new event venue with the arrival of Moon Town Crossing; and the state’s first automated 24-hour library kiosk opened.
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