An Owensboro institution closed its doors in August, but after 56 years of business, its impact on the community is undeniable.
If you were to ask a hairstylist in Owensboro where they went to school, more than likely they’ll tell you “Mr. Jim’s.” That’s because Mr. Jim’s College of Cosmetology has been graduating stylists since August of 1962, producing countless numbers of cosmetologists over the years. But with changing requirements for licensing coming down the pike from the Kentucky State Board of Cosmetology, the local school has closed its doors.
“Our state board reduced the instructional hours from 1,800 to 1,500,” explained the school’s owner, Stephen Boyd. “You can’t teach everything you need to in that amount of time. It takes those last 300 hours to polish students up.”
The board also eliminated the previously required six-month apprenticeship program.
“We teach the basics. When you eliminate the apprenticeship program you have people who don’t understand everything yet,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of consumer complaints and I can’t put Mr. Jim’s name on it.”
Boyd, an instructor for 35 years, practically grew up at the school. His father, Jim Boyd, started the business just before Stephen was born. At that time, students could also get their licence through the vocational school.
“We really served two different groups,” said Boyd. “The vocational school was for mothers doing it with a family who wanted summers off, and we were straight through.”
Ashby Isbill, a stylist at Changes Salon and Spa started her hours at Mr. Jim’s in February 2013. She said her mother, who has been a stylist for 38 years, went to the vocational school.
“The year I started Mr. Jim’s the vocational school closed, so it’s been the only one in Owensboro since then,” Isbill said.
She recalls having a great amount of respect for Shirley, Mr. Jim’s wife, and her craft.
“She was so old school and knew her stuff,” Isbill said. “She was the one who would teach us the perfect finger waves and roller sets and could roll a perm on the tiniest rollers ever. She was quite the hairstylist.”
Isbill also has fond memories her instructor Cyn Ludwig.
“She seriously made my experience the best, and the girls that I did basically my whole 1800 hours with,” Isbill said. “We had such a great time. We had several friendships form outside of school.”
Ludwig said she was an instructor at the school for six years. She left the role in December to care for her grandmother. In that time, she had 69 students, with class sizes ranging from 8-25 students.
“It was awesome,” Ludwig said. “All of it was awesome. We had a ball.”
Her students now work in Washington, Florida, Tennessee, Indiana and all over Kentucky.
“You don’t usually hear people say they want to grow up and do hair, but if you have a kid that gives their Barbies haircuts – that’s who we want. Bald Barbies make my heart happy,” she said.
She especially misses her students this time of the year, she said. The school had a three-day celebration of Halloween where they dressed as scary or funny as they wanted.
“The hair and the makeup,” Ludwig said. “It got the creative juices flowing! They’d start planning three months ahead of time.”
Ludwig did say there was a chance she may find herself back in a school setting.
“I hope to teach again,” she said. “I’m not done yet.”
As for Boyd, he can be found at Blitz Boutique Salon And Spa.
“I’m starting from scratch,” he said. “What I’ll miss most is the customers (at the school). They were my best friends. You get to know them, their family and everything.”