MICHIGAN CITY — Not many hair salons can hold claim to four decades of business in the same location, but Hair Corps, 1906 U.S. 20, can.
Owner Jeane Church said when the Evergreen Plaza space previously occupied by a hair salon came available for sale, “I was just going to try it originally and see how I could make it. I didn’t know if it was going to last five or 10 years, but here I am at 40 years.”
After working at three other hair salons before, she opened Hair Corps on May 1, 1979. Church, who turns 72 on the 18th of this month, has been a cosmetologist for 53 years. Beginning at age 10, she had aspired to become an architect, but her father suggested beauty college and she gave it a try.
“He was very proud of the fact that I had a successful salon,” she said. “I started out on a shoe-string budget, but it’s done very well. People like that we’ve been here a long time. It’s very rewarding. I love what I do or I wouldn’t be doing it this long.”
As a small business owner, Church said, “I always wanted to give my employees more than I got.”
Today, she is happy to offer her five employees a higher commission than average for hair salons in addition to benefits. Their loyalty to Church and Hair Corps is evident as they’ve been there 5, 11, 20, 21 and 40 years.
And, there are plenty of loyal customers too.
“We’re dependable. We try to be consistently professional in our work,” Church said. “ … Being a good listener is important. Listening to what they don’t want or want is important.”
“I’ve made a lot of friends,” she continued. “There are clients that are gone (passed away) that were much more than clients – they were friends. I can almost see them walking through the door as they did so many times. You miss those that are gone and enjoy those that are here. You make a lot of friendships. A lot of memories come back.”
She remembered the young boy who was terrified to sit on a booster seat in a styling chair and get his haircut. A younger Church simply sat on the floor to get the job done. Today, that boy is a successful father. She recalled the rewarding visits she’s made to clients in nursing homes who are excited to see her.
“You never know what you are going to get. The experiences are really something,” Church said. “It’s fun because it’s always a challenge. Someone asked me how many heads of hair I’ve done,” she said. “It’s impossible to remember. I’m sure it’s an incredible amount.”
Since Church has seen more than five decades of hairstyles come and go, she has memories of a vast array of trends. She recalled the “work of art” '60s updos, the ultra-short Sassoon geometric cuts, the Farrah hairstyle requested by so many, the Dorothy Hamill look and the bobs.
“Now it’s pretty much whatever you want,” she said.
Hair Corps offers haircuts, shampoos, blow-drys, shampoos/sets, colors, highlighting, corrective coloring, wig cutting and styling, permanents, manicures, pedicures, facial waxing, and updos for special events such as weddings and proms. The salon services clients of all ages and has a high number of male clients. Walk-ins are welcome if one of the staff is available.
Church has been happy with the same location for her business over the past 40 years. It’s on a major highway with an alternate entrance via Wellnetz Road and has easy accessibility from Michigan City, Trail Creek, La Porte, and other surrounding areas. At 1,600-square-feet, the space has ample room.
“It’s been a good spot – it’s easy to find,” she said.
Hair Corps sponsors a bowling league at City Lanes and has participated in Locks of Love and other charitable events applicable to her business.
“I’m not a sitter. I have to be doing something. It gives me a purpose, a reason to get up and go about my day. It’s a good thing. It’s reaching out to people,” Church said.
Hours of operation for Hair Corps are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Early morning and evening appointment are by appointment only. The hair salon is closed on Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 219-879-8938.