Katherine Fagan has wanted to be a hairdresser since she was a little girl.
She was the girl who would play with Barbies’ hair, and the one who started “braiding chains” with her friends.
Now, the State College woman is taking over ownership of wig boutique The Hair Lady from founder Janise Crow. The goal remains the same, to help women experiencing hair loss — through cancer or another medical condition — feel more confident and powerful.
Before she was a wig specialist, Fagan previously worked in oncology, and as a special education teacher. She found out about The Hair Lady when a friend sent her an article about Crow looking for someone to transfer her business to, and read it over and over again.
It was an opportunity, she said, that was near and dear to her.
Fagan was interested in hair, she had worked with cancer patients, and, after someone close to her had been diagnosed with cancer, she knew how “incredibly supportive” the community could be, and how hard it can be to process a diagnosis.
She had wanted some way to give back to the community for their support, and a way to support people going through the early days after being diagnosed. Taking over the business feels like her career has run full circle, Fagan said.
She talked to Crow, and they began looking at what it would take for Fagan to run the business. For Crow, what struck her most was Fagan’s compassion, and the friendship the two found.
“She definitely has a bubbly personality, but I think sometimes you just meet somebody and you just click,” Crow said. “Well, that’s how it was with Katherine and I, from the moment we met. We met and talked and shared some stories, and I just knew that she definitely had the right heart that I was looking for.”
Fagan stressed that many aspects of The Hair Lady will stay the same: the business will continue to be a home boutique providing compassionate care and a private, confidential place where clients can take as much time as necessary to select a wig or other hair needs.
Though Crow has been focusing more on her jewelry-making business, she’s still working with Fagan and continuing to train her in the nuances of wig styling, and is available if a client would request to work with her.
Though the wig boutique often sees clients dealing with hair loss or cancer, Fagan said they also have “such a nice mix of everything” in terms of clients, including dance and cheer teams who may need extensions.
“The Hair Lady” has the largest selection of wigs in the region, Fagan said, and people come from other counties and states to visit. Many clients come from The Hair Lady’s website as well. The boutique carries full wigs as well as other pieces like hair toppers and some extensions. Wigs can be ordered, if necessary, or a client can take one home from the boutique the same day.
Fagan’s favorite part of the business is helping the clients.
“It’s really providing that compassionate care, and seeing a woman’s face light up when she realizes that, even though I can’t give her her own hair, I can come very close and make her leave here feeling confident and beautiful,” Fagan said. “That’s my favorite part, the interaction between me and someone who’s feeling vulnerable (who I can help).”
She remembers when her first client found the right wig.
“She put it on, and her eyes lit up, and you could tell immediately,” Fagan said. “Her hands went to the wig, adjusting little pieces, and I will never forget that smile for as long as I live. It was the one.”
Fagan is excited to continue the legacy that Crow began when she opened the business in 2001.
“I think for me, to continue what she’s started — a reputation of providing compassionate care in a private location — I know that’s something that clients have really appreciated,” Fagan said.