Hair stylist Rhonda Fulkerson has been doing hair for 37 years. Even though becoming a hairdresser was her lifelong passion, Fulkerson never dreamed she would be able to open her own salon. But last month, Rhonda’s Wild Hair Salon celebrated its 15th year in business.
“I wanted to have my own shop, but I was worried I couldn’t do it myself because Owensboro was such an expensive place to rent,” Fulkerson said, adding that she was on her way to visit New York City when the previous Emory Drive salon owner called and asked if Fulkerson would like to take over the lease. “I signed a new 1-year lease and I’ve been here 15 years.”
After seeing her dream finally become reality, Fulkerson was determined to create something different from the typical hair salon in both name and decor.
“When I came up with the name Wild Hair, I just wanted it to be something that caught people’s ear and eye,” Fulkerson said. “When you’re going down the road and hear it and see it — it catches your attention.”
She said over the years, the name has done just that. Fulkerson said she has had several clients walk in because they heard an ad on the radio and were intrigued by the unique name. The salon name was not the only unique element, Fulkerson added.
“I painted everything from the ceiling to the walls to the floor,” Fulkerson said. “I didn’t want it to be beige or plain — I wanted bright colors, and for it to be more lively. I wanted to do something fun and different for Owensboro.”
Adding the extra elements of a hanging disco ball and live karaoke, Fulkerson was able to create the environment she was hoping for.
“I’ve always loved music — I still do today,” Fulkerson said. “I thought it was something fun that could help people relax and forget about the stress of life for a while.”
Drawing from her love of music, Fulkerson created another tradition that she has shared with her clients and co-workers over the years.
“We’ve celebrated Elvis’ birthday every year on January 8,” Fulkerson said. “I brought in a little fryer and we made peanut butter and banana sandwiches.”
Other nods to her love of the ’50s and ’60s can be seen in the various prints of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn gracing the walls throughout the salon.
Originally from Ohio County, Fulkerson said she has loved the idea of styling hair since she was a little girl.
“I always loved messing with hair – I would cut my Barbie doll’s hair,” Fulkerson said. “I would go with my mom to the shop when she got her hair done and would sweep hair.”
After high school, Fulkerson attended the Owensboro School of Hair Design and cut hair in Ohio County for about 6 months before moving to Fantastic Sams in Owensboro — a salon to which she would commit 19 years of her life.
Fulkerson opened Rhonda’s Wild Hair Salon at 527 Emory Drive in November of 2007. She was joined by two of her Fantastic Sams co-workers, Sherry Nix and Dara Gahagan, within a year. With the addition of Elaine Burton in 2015, she now shares the salon with three other hairdressers. The salon takes both appointments and walk-ins, but Fulkerson said they mainly rely on client recommendations and word of mouth to increase their business. She also anticipates more traffic with the new physical therapy office and other businesses moving into Wesleyan Park Plaza.
Fulkerson, who now has a home at Rough River, said although she has cut her hours back to part-time and only works two days a week, she has no intention of retiring any time soon.
“I’m 55 now,” Fulkerson said. “I love it and I don’t plan on quitting. I like people too much and I have great customers. I will probably work as long as I can.”