Original article published in the Mower County Independent, Thursday, April 13, 2023. Reprinted with permission and gratitude.
By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Tina Fabian speaks keratin, Aqua-Net, frillies and fluent tomboy.
Her childhood aspirations changed enough to make some of her current clients’ hair positively curl.
“I had all kinds of different things. I wanted to be an interpreter because I learned German, sign language, Spanish… and I thought I could interpret at Mayo Clinic; and I really like arts and drawing, so I thought I could become an architect; then there’s this. I’m creative, and my creativity pushed me into this. I wasn’t really girly – I was more of a tomboy, more into climbing trees than putting on frillies, but it’s just as fun,” stated Fabian, standing in the middle of her downtown Spring Valley salon, Hair by Tina, which she opened last August and is working to translate into a full-time occupation.
She was straightforward about her current salon proprietorship and how she came to occupy her solo Broadway salon. “I never intended on opening a salon. I was perfectly happy renting somewhere else, but for me to continue doing business, I had to open a salon. I rented a booth briefly for a year or two at Total Look from Dawn Cooper. I’d been looking and looking because where I was at in Stewartville, I didn’t want to renew, and they were selling the building. I was in a panic, and all of a sudden, it hit me…it was right there, and it worked out great. Before Total Look, I was renting from Makin’ Waves for a couple of years, had a booth there, and before that, I was managing at one of the largest salon franchises in the United States, so I’ve got about 13 to 14 years there at Great Clips and was management for about eight years.”
Before that came the translation of artistic skills from fine arts into the cosmetological arts. “Hair…I kinda am an artist. I like to draw, work in clay, build stuff. I did my sister’s hair for her senior pictures, and it looked good. I’m a licensed cosmetologist, so I’m trained in all the different things cosmetologists do…cuts, colors, perms, roller sets, men’s cuts, eyebrow and lip waxing, beard trims. I got my first job at a salon as an actual licensed stylist at First Impressions Hair Studio on the Corner of Civic Center and Broadway. Two of my instructors at cosmetology school owned that salon then, and I rented from them for a year and a half after school, and they taught me how to do tinting eyelashes, things like that. They decided to sell, so I walked into Great Clips, and ‘there you go.’”
She went on, “When I was across the way at Total Look, I was looking around, calling phone numbers on doors. I got ahold of here and [the owner] told me it would be ‘this much’ – which is a good deal because it has a full kitchen and access to a shared bathroom – and it all fell into place. It was exactly what I needed to do at the time. Everything fell into place.”
However, there was a pronounced calendar gap between the time that Fabian defined her life’s next statement and when she could officially open her own salon. “I didn’t have a place to go in between, so for a full month, Jenn Slifka let me rent a booth and chair at Chateau, and Alex (Slifka) came over here and hung my sign. We’re not in competition, because they do stuff I don’t. I’m really thankful for Jenn…she really stepped up.”
Fabian took care to upcycle anything she possibly could to furnish her shop responsibly, speaking “thrift” whenever she had occasion to buy secondhand or repurpose items that would suit her business, including a snazzy pair of vintage hairdryer chairs with plastic cylinder drying bonnets–the kind seen in the movies–and to use wisely anything that was given to her, such as the dressing table that now serves as her styling station, and most importantly, referral information for Total Look clients who might be interested in getting their hair cut and set by someone familiar.
“When I started, I didn’t have any clients, which is hard, but I don’t want to live my life thinking ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda.’ I wanted to be my own boss, but I thought it would be weird to be alone, but I’m not alone because my clients are here–business is slowly building, and I’m glad that it’s gradually growing–and they’re special, let me tell you that. They’ve been amazing– they’ve spoiled me. I have a whole new family.”
Her services vocabulary, as she previously noted, ranges from family haircuts to eyebrow maintenance and beard trims, things that she enjoys doing for clients because they improve appearance and boost confidence. Fabian is deciding still whether she’d like to take appointments for wedding parties’ hair, but she may if she has a proper consultation session with the wedding participants prior to the work being completed. “I do women’s cuts, senior ladies’ shampoo and sets, perms…it’s not necessarily your old-school salon. A lot of men feel out of place, like the vibe is weird. Here, I’d like to have a larger male clientele because a lot of it is a male-dominated business, but there’s not a lot of options, so men go to Rochester, and guess who’s cutting their hair in Rochester? They might as well stay here. For guys’ haircuts, I offer a shampoo and a hot towel for their face. It’s not just ‘sit down and go’ when they’re done. For ladies, they get a shampoo and their hair styled up, so why not the guys? I want people to feel comfortable and not out of place. I think I’ve got a good combination of masculine and feminine sides.”
The words that define Fabian’s reasoning for managing a busy schedule–one that she hopes will soon be less divided by holding down another job at a Rochester hair establishment–are that she simply likes witnessing what happens to someone’s disposition when they’ve gotten the conversation for a perfect curl or beard shaping down and the work is finished.
“People feel better when they get their hair done, and it’s when they make comments about how good they feel.”
Courtesy of the Mower County Independent, 135 E Main St. LeRoy, MN 55951, (507)-324-5325