Small talk is a part of the business in hair salons.
And through the inevitable conversations about life, your local hair stylists can learn a lot about you.
Laura Nelson responded to something she heard all too often — it was difficult for some clients to travel for a haircut. That prompted her to venture outside of 209 Hair Dezign’s doors about a year ago and give some of her clients a shortcut.
“I have a background working with older folks, and I was at Eagle Valley Personal Care Home for years,” Nelson said. “If it’s someone with a disability of some kind, I have the understanding and experience communicating with them. Some of these people can’t travel on their own and drive themselves somewhere. They have to get a friend or family member to drive them, or they need to use a bus. I’ve experienced several times where they sit waiting for their ride for hours.”
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Nelson began the service at the request of a longtime customer.
“I was asked if I could do their mom’s hair, because she just had surgery,” she said. “The more people talked about it not being easy to get around I realized there is no place to call for something like this. It’s a relatively new idea for this area. I just know of three are hairdressers that go to assisted living homes.”
Nelson visits about 20 clients to give them haircuts.
The clients she visits include a woman who recently had a stroke and a 97-year old woman in State College.
“I walked into the woman’s house, and she’s 97 years old,” Nelson said. “The poor woman hardly spoke and didn’t look up. I colored and cut her hair. I curled it, and when we were done I put a mirror up to her, and she lit up like a Christmas tree. Those are the things that make me feel good, giving them a little life. I could stay in the shop and make people like her come to me, but this is more rewarding.”
One of the first clients she traveled to was Gregory Strayer’s wife, Judy, who has advanced amnesia, which causes her to be immobile and nonverbal.
“It’s been a very big relief,” Gregory Strayer said. “We have nurse aidescome in and doctors, so I was very accustomed to having people come over, but nothing like what Laura is doing. I was totally impressed. She was prepared and totally in control.”
He said the haircuts have brought joy for his wife.
“I believe it’s calming for my wife,” he said. “Laura is very good about being able to work with someone with advanced amnesia, and I don’t know what I’d do otherwise. Get out the kitchen shears?”
Not if Nelson has anything to do with it.
“I feel like for me there came a point where what I wanted to do needed to be rewarding,” Nelson said. “I don’t want just the job at my salon. I want to help and give back. It’s still a paid service, but it’s also a love of mine.”
There are no plans to close 209 Hair Dezign even though she spends less time in the salon. She tries to make home visits on Mondays and Wednesdays only and works from her business, located at her home in Bellefonte, by appointment the rest of the week.
Nelson said she would also visit able clients that would rather not leave their house.
“I have many clients that prefer coming to the shop, though, because it’s a private little one connected to my home,” she said. “It’s a private, intimate setting, and a ton of people enjoy that, too.”