Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 6, 1999

Hair Company opens in Lester Prairie

By Luis Puga

It's opening day at The Hair Company, and the phone just keeps ringing and ringing.

Owner Peg Rathkamp answers and traces down the list of appointments at the table.

Her hours are flexible, but despite this, she informs the caller that she's full for the day, and offers another day.

Rathkamp said that the calls have been coming in all day. She admits that it's been better than she expected and is looking forward to providing a number of beautician services to the community.

Rathkamp, a native of Lester Prairie, has had 10 years experience in styling hair. She graduated from St. Cloud Beauty College and began work in the Twin Cities. Then she moved on to Howard Lake where she did hair at Donna's Salon. Eventually, she felt it was time to break out on her own.

Why? Rathkamp explains she wanted to be closer to her children.

"My kids are getting older. I have three daughters, and I just wanted to be more accessible to them," she said.

With her location across from city hall and next to the post office, Rathkamp could not be more accessible.

Moreover, Rathkamp feels that she is ready to have her own business.

The phone rings again, supporting that claim. This time it is a call of congratulations from a friend.

Rathkamp likes to do hair. She said it's always been something she's wanted to do.

Her favorite part is coloring hair, and she adds that she has traveled to Florida, Chicago, and Iowa to receive training in how to color.

The coloring she does most often tends to be subtle highlights that accent people's hair. She notes that it was very popular with teenagers in Howard Lake as well as some men.

So who colors their hair? Rathkamp laughs and indicates she's not telling.

However, she admits that it is not such a big secret for clients in general.

"That's not a taboo anymore. When people color their hair, they want other people to notice," she said.

Other services include general styling, permanents, and other hair texturing. Rathkamp also works with all sorts of clientele, including kids.

Any parent can tell you that kids, particularly young boys, can be resistant to having their hair cut.

Rathkamp admits that can be true, however, she has a system to deal with squeamish clients. She offers a quarter for the gumball machine down the street for half an hour of sitting still.

Asked whether she thinks such bribery is ethical, she laughs and says, "I don't know, but it works."

Then, she is saved by the ringing phone. Another appointment she shuffles back to later in the week.

Part of her success clearly comes from the fact that she enjoys her work. Rathkamp said that hair styling is fun and the work allows her to be creative.

She particularly likes the "up-dos" or hair styles for more formal occasions such as proms and weddings. Her experience includes some work she has done for queen candidates in Howard Lake.

Her extensive background in styling will also be taking her to St. Cloud for the 2000 Mrs. Minnesota Pageant. She'll be doing hair and make-up for Lonna Rahn, a candidate from Meeker County. Rathkamp said she is excited about the opportunity.

The phone rings again. Rathkamp again skims over the appointment book looking for a slot. Giving her customers what they want may be why she is doing well just out of the gate.

She said it's key to make them feel comfortable and listen to how they want their hair. If a customer has trouble deciding, she'll go through magazines to help them decide. In a trade where client and provider are in close proximity to each other, comfort goes a long way.

Above that, Rathkamp wants to provide a shop with a professional atmosphere for Lester Prairie. She shuns the idea that her salon will became a "gossip shop."

"(The salon) is a gathering place for people to come and relax, feel good about themselves, and have a good time. I don't want a salon where people come to know the latest gossip," she said.

"This is a busy world we live in now. People want to come in and relax, and forget about life for a half hour," she continues.

She concludes that is why it is important to give clients quality service.

With the phone ringing again, Rathkamp definitely seems to be providing that service. It makes sense since most people are very loyal to stylists and some of her clients have followed her over from Howard Lake. Right now, she currently has one chair, but thinks she may have to add another soon.

Other plans for the future include a tanning bed and she would like to provide facials and massages someday, too. However, she knows she will be busy for the holiday season and predicts it will be some time before those services are provided.

Another future wish is to establish a queens program for Lester Prairie. In Howard Lake, she was on the queens committee and would like to see such a program in Lester Prairie.

She believes it would be good for the community, but it will have to wait. The phone has rung again.

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