Celebrating business longevity in changing times

Nokomis Hair Design's Rosie has been working at the same building for 54 years

There’s always a buzz in the neighborhood when a new business opens, but what about celebrating a business that has shown real staying power? 
RoseLee Buechler (Rosie) has owned and operated Nokomis Hair Design for 44 years, and in that time she has seen a lot of change. Her salon sits on a hill overlooking Lake Nokomis in a pleasant cluster of shops along 50th Street. Nearby neighbors are the Nokomis Beach Coffee Shop, the Nokomis Beach Gallery, and Nokomis Yoga. Those brick facades have housed different businesses over the years, but Nokomis Hair Design has been a steady neighborhood presence. 
Stick-to-itiveness pays off
When Rosie bought her business in 1980, there were five other hair salons within easy walking distance, and an unknown number of barber shops. She mused, “Who’d have thought we’d be the last one standing?”
Rosie said, “In my family, everybody stays in the same job forever. I worked for the owner of Irene’s Beauty Shoppe, which was previously in this location, for 10 years before I bought her business and changed the name. So, I guess I’ve been coming to work in this same building for 54 years. I’ve never taken more than a one-week vacation. I’m always here.” 
Death of the weekly set 
Nokomis Hair Design is, and has always been, Rosie and her full-time employee Roxie. When asked what their bread-and-butter was back when they started, Rosie said it was all about the “weekly set,” something that women of a certain age had done to their hair every week. The majority of female customers had perms back then and came to the salon to have their hair washed, set with rollers, dried, and styled.
“Back combing,” was how Rosie described the process, “and lots of hair spray to make their hair stand up tall.” She added, “We had a customer who claimed she’d never washed her own hair once in her whole adult life.” 
According to Rosie, “Pretty much all we did in those days was weekly sets. It was one right after the other all day long. Most of the customers were older and they would come on the same day each week at the same time. They got to know each other, and had concern for each other. Customers used to come in weekly for a set, and now they come in every 5-6 weeks for a haircut. It’s hard to make up the difference in that math, but haircuts are definitely the number one thing we do these days.”
Trends come and go
Hair styles go in and out of popularity as often as styles of clothing. Rosie laughed and described the stand-out hairstyles from decades past. “In the 1980s, there was the mullet. Remember that one? We thought of it as all business in the front and a party in the back. In the 90s everyone wanted to look like Jennifer Aniston from the TV show Friends, with wispy layered hair. Then came the 2000s, and hair was supposed to be flat as an ironing board, followed by the 2010s which were all about curls and natural texture.”  
When asked about the decade we’re in, Rosie said, “There’s really no ‘look’ right now. Anything goes!”
Customer loyalty
Annamary Herther rides the bus from the North End of St. Paul to get her hair cut at Nokomis Hair Design, where she is a longtime customer. She said, “I admired a haircut on a friend years ago, and asked where she’d gotten it. ‘Don’t you know Rosie and Roxie?’ the friend answered in surprise. ‘They’re hair goddesses.’” 
She continued, “Rosie and Roxie have something special going on. In terms of a haircut, I think it’s a great value, but it’s also high value in terms of personality and caring. When I tell my friends about this place, I describe it as multi-generational, welcoming, retro-hip and fun. You know how you go into someone’s house and you just feel comfortable? That’s how it is here.” 
In addition to friendly service, Nokomis Hair Design offers a full line of Paul Mitchell hair products, a little free library, Girl Scout cookies available for purchase in the spring, and a selection of greeting cards made by customers for all occasions. 
Music plays softly during the workday at Nokomis Hair Design and, as Rosie said, “You can make requests by decade.” For no additional cost, Rosie and Roxie will sing along, much to the enjoyment of their customers. 
Customer appreciation
Many aspects of being a hair stylist and a small business owner have changed since 1980. According to Rosie, ”The hairstyles have changed; the products have changed; the equipment has changed; even the capes we put on our customers are different.”
But one thing has remained the same. When asked what it was, Rosie answered without hesitation, “It’s the people. We’ve been so spoiled by our customers. They bring in treats, they offer to help us fold towels, some even insist on sweeping the floor after their haircut. We know our customers and their families, and they know us.”
Nokomis Hair Design is open Monday-Saturday. Call 612-722-5857 for an appointment. A real person will pick up the phone after just a ring or two, and talk to you. Their address is 2724 East 50th Street. Free on-street parking is available. All are welcome.


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