All in the Family
A work ethic and helping heart that are three generations strong at The French Door Salon & Day SpaBy Patrice Stewart
The Decatur Daily
November 30, 2008
In the 1960s, Inez's Country Curl was the place to go for your weekly shampoo and style.
You could chat while Inez curled your hair around rollers and then look through a copy of Ladies' Home Journal while you sat under the bonnet-type hairdryer with cotton protecting your ears.
"Then I'd tease it and spray it and say, 'See you next week,' " recalled Inez Reid, 76.
While living in Orlando, Fla., the Decatur native attended Murwood Beauty School and worked for others before opening Inez's Country Curl
Her daughter, Pam, hung out in the shop with her, watching and absorbing the beauty shop life. As a teen, she earned money cleaning the shop.
More than 40 years later, styles have changed, their roles have reversed, and a third generation is involved.
Now Reid helps at The French Door Salon & Day Spa, the business her daughter, Pam Reid French, started in Decatur. Her granddaughter, Vanessa French Macklin, is a stylist and technician there.
"I was counting on my daughter to help me with my shop in Orlando," Reid said. "But she moved to Decatur in 1974, soon after high school, and got married and never came back."
So Reid and her husband moved back to Decatur in 1977 to be near Pam and the grandchildren who were beginning to arrive
Tease and spray
The beauty shop has changed, Reid said.
"Back when I got in it, people came to the shop every week, and we'd tease their hair up and spray it. You really got close to people like that, and I missed them when we moved back to Alabama," said Reid.
"Now folks just get a cut or maybe color and then you don't see them again for six weeks," Reid said.
She said she charged more at her Florida shop than some others -- $4.50 for a cut and another $4.50 for a set, for a total of $9. They handled more permanents then.
"Now it's $40 for a cut and style," Reid said. "And we did some manicures back then, but we hadn't even heard of pedicures. It's almost unbelievable what all is offered now, with massages and facials and these other spa services."
Reid's husband was in the military, so they traveled around. Back in Decatur, she built a house, rather than a salon client base. After her husband died in 1984, she worked at Rogers Department Store and later began helping her daughter with her business.
"I wanted to help her out all I could, so I'd come in and clean the place," said Reid, who also helped make appointments. "I do the laundry, too -- lots of towels and robes and sheets."
She still cuts the hair of her two sisters and brother and brother-in-law, but she has scaled back some activites now that she is a cancer patient for the second time.
"But I'm not going to give up," said Reid, who is scheduled for a new medical procedure Tuesday.
French said she learned a lot about the hair business from watching her mother.
"My mother has encouraged me and been a great inspiration to me," said French, who observed her mother go from working for someone else to owning her own business.
"She was a country girl in Florida, and everybody loved that in Orlando, where she was very successful," French said.
Cosmetology "has been kind of ingrained in me since I was young," said French.
While in high school in Orlando, she attended cosmetology school on a half-day basis, and after graduation she completed her courses at Calhoun Community College and earned her license.
"I started doing hair in 1974, and we followed style trends set by celebrities such as actress Farrah Faucett and ice skater Dorothy Hamill," she said.
It was mostly cuts and styles and blow dries then, and not as many perms.
"But that's coming back around, too," said French. "I've seen a lot of the big hairstyles of the 1980s coming back to more natural, flowing, easy styles, and permanents designed to add more texture."
Sometimes she worked for others and for a time she stayed home with her three children, getting back into the business for herself only about eight years ago. After opening The French Door, she was in four locations in eight years, on or just off Danville Road Southwest.
Cafe and spa
When land became available at 2216 Kooken Ave. S.W., French decided to have her own building constructed to encompass the massages, facials, manicures, pedicures hair and body treatments she wanted to offer in one location. It also includes a hot tub room and the Cafe d' Azure, which offers breakfast bagels, sandwiches, wraps, salads, lattes and smoothies
"We had always ordered lunches for our full-day clients, so we decided to put in our own cafe," said French, who lives in Trinity. "It's nice for those coming by on their lunch hour, so they can take something back to work with them."
French said women today who are balancing home and children with jobs "deserve some pampering, and it makes them better mothers and wives and employees."
They also have men as clients who take home gift certificates to their wives.
Macklin, the youngest of her three children at 24, was around her mother's workplace a lot as a teen, and she decided to follow her grandmother and mother into the cosmetology field. She handles hair and microdermabrasion clients.
"Vanessa has been a great asset and helps me a lot," French said.
At one time, when she didn't have a manager and son Wesley didn't have a job, he helped with the books and cleaning at the shop.
Wesley French, 28, now lives in Birmingham and works in software design and training for banks and credit unions, while son Brandon French of Athens, 31, is an assistant manager at the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville.
Macklin trained in Florence at Ray's Cosmetology School after graduating from West Morgan High and has worked for her mother for nearly five years.
"When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but I guess every kid does," said the Decatur resident. "But I was always around hair."
Having several generations working together has not been a problem, Macklin said. Last week, in between other clients, she cut her brother Brandon's hair.
He said she practiced with hair a lot when she was young.
"I remember a photo of Vanessa playing in one of the capes and sitting under a hair dryer," he said.
With big businesses and chains dominating much of the business world, Susan South, manager for The French Door, said she prefers working with a small business that has kept moving, growing and employing more people.
"I just love the family part of working her," South said. "I think it's neat how Pam lears from her mom and Vanessa from her mom and grandmother."