Shelley Schmitt is a go-getter. As the owner of Shelley and Friends salon and boutique for over 30 years, she knows how to charm booth renters — and keep them.
Schmitt moved to Owensboro from New York in 1978 when her father was transferred to the General Electric plant. She had completed her beauty school certification and was working in Montpelier, Vt. when her parents decided to move.
“I could handle being three hours away from them but not 23,” Schmitt said.
After receiving her reciprocity for licensing, she worked at a chain salon in Owensboro and then took some time to raise her daughter. During that time, however, she was cutting friends and family members’ hair from home and decided if she was doing that, she needed the convenience of a salon and its amenities.
“I was really fortunate to get to stay home with my kids,” Schmitt said.
She visited three places before she found her home at Connie’s Shear Design on East 9th Street.
“She was just so laid back and reminded me of me,” Schmitt said. “She finally was like ‘do you want a job or don’t you’ … and in eight months, she moved and I bought the shop.”
At that point, all of the ladies in the shop now had a new boss who was unestablished in the salon world, something that would scare most employees, but all remained.
Patricia Lindsey is a stylist who has been at Shelley and Friends for 23 years.
“Shelley is on top of everything,” Lindsey said. “She will do anything for you. She is a wonderful shop owner, a good friend, so thoughtful.”
Lindsey said she had known Schmitt since they both worked in separate salons at Towne Square Mall. She recalled that one day, Schmitt came into the salon where Lindsey was working and told her she liked how she cut hair. The two have been friends ever since.
“We work for each other, not against each other,” Lindsey said.
The idea of friendship is not lost on Schmitt who said she is not her renter’s employer but rather their leader and co-worker. Several are of the age of retirement, including Schmitt, but she said the low cost of booth rental keeps the stylists there and that she has no intention to retire.
Several years ago she was approached by the city because they wanted to condemn her building — though there was nothing wrong with it — in hopes of becoming the location for the 911 call center.
As a small business owner, she was surprised by the cost of legal fees to fight for what was rightfully hers — and that the space was unavailable to be purchased for what they offered.
Schmitt asked her stylists to stay with her during the time she fought to keep her salon. During the acquisition she was asked if she had considered retirement at her age or renting somewhere else.
“I have a rental business here, this is a rental business,” Schmitt said. “I am providing employment for these people…this was a tough, tough time.”
Fortunately, she said the plans fell through and they “left her alone.”
Although she has been in the same location for 30 years, marketing and change are something that keep Schmitt going. She said her best ideas come in the night and the next morning, it is not uncommon to see her moving things around, discussing her hair brained ideas with her husband, Mark, and turning her dreams into reality.
Last year she was driving down a street in town when a specific color of gray on a house caught her eye. She asked her husband if they could paint the shop that color. And in the heat of summer, that is just what they did.
“I really have the best husband. None of this would have happened without him,” Schmitt said.
The exterior makeover prompted her to think about the inside of the salon. Schmitt began researching what worked nationally and locally in salons and decided to include three suites — rooms that are in the salon, but are separated by glass doors for more privacy for stylists and their clients. She had received several calls asking if she had any private rooms and this motivated another researching and thinking-in-the-night session for Schmitt.
“I read one article and it said exactly what I was thinking — find something that people are looking for that there isn’t enough of — and I swear I woke my husband up and said we really do need to do this,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt and her husband began discussing what was needed to create Schmitt’s vision for the interior makeover. They called friends who came and walked through the space deciding what colors, floors cabinets and countertops would complete the space. Schmitt talked to other stylists and was never surprised at how helpful they were through the process.
She said that it was never about the competition and found that others stylists were happy to provide information.
“I think our hair stylist community is good,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt said she wanted to keep it warm and cozy while still keeping the original feel of “vintage.” She heard someone once say he wanted clients to feel like they are in his living room, and she reflected on that as she picked out accessories — often with the help of clients.
Custom cabinets were installed that allow the cords to not tangle in the drawers, something Schmitt said is extremely important to consider. Another is the deeper drawers to house items that often clutter the counter workspace.
Because there are two working sides to the salon, Shelley and Friends did not close during the remodel — stylists just moved stations.
Sheryl Vanover has worked at Shelley and Friends for 23 years and said that during the construction, she knew that what Schmitt was doing would benefit the salon.
“She is so hard working and nonstop, and it’s beautiful,” Vanover said, referring to the remodeled shop.
Vanover said that the building and everything in it is Schmitt’s baby, and that makes all of the difference in the world.
“I love her for loving it,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt has reinvented her salon and said that after a break, she will begin work on the other side, which she refers to as the boutique because she sells purses, jewelry and accessories. She is marketing her salon to area stylists on Facebook and in beauty stores. Several have called about the suite rental, and she is looking for the perfect fit for these.
She is constantly thinking of ways to make her business different than others and is known to put her creative energy into baking treats for the store.
It isn’t uncommon on a Thursday for her to bring brownies or cookies in for clients. Many have standing appointments with the stylists so the same groups are there on the same days, fostering the same style of relationships Schmitt desires.
“I have never been surprised by how nice my friends and clients are,” Schmitt said.
Jan Johnson, a Thursday client of Lindsey’s said that she was driving by the salon several years ago and noticed the purses hanging in the window. Johnson said that since the purses looked that neat, the people inside were probably the same.
“I just walked in,” Johnson said. “They are the most awesome, this group here. Shelley is the most fantastic person.”
Shelley and Friends also has two barbers in the recessed barber shop that is located on the boutique side.
“I have been around women all my life,” said barber Steve Ritter, who added that he cuts hair for as many women as men.
Schmitt said she has made her own environment and is still looking to add new stylists. She currently has three suites that can be rented for $100 per week and one booth rental at $75 per week. She also provides a $150 referral gift to other stylists because she finds value in a recommendation from her styling community.
To inquire about rental or to make an appointment at Shelley and Friends, call 270-926-4849. Shelley and Friends is located at 128 E. 9th St.