By Marlys Kruger
After more then 30 years as an employee and an owner of her own beauty shop, Colfax resident Eileen Stokke retired from the business this past November. Eileen may be spending time in a rocking chair in the next few years, but she won’t be watching T.V. or reading like some of us would be doing. Eileen plans on taking care of twin grandchildren born to her daughter Jennifer and her husband just two months ago in the Twin Cities which will keep her plenty busy.
“They have two other kids besides the twins and with both of them working, it would just be difficult for them to take them all to daycare,” Eileen said. “And it is awfully expensive. I just thought it would be the right thing to do by staying with them and watching the babies during the week while they work. I will only be watching the twins for now because four kids would be a lot for me to handle. And I will come home on the weekends,”she added.
Getting her start
Eileen didn’t plan on becoming a beauty operator when she graduated from Boyceville High School in 1970, but things just fell into place for her.
“I actually wanted to be a secretary, but I remembered getting out of school one day to go observe different careers and one of them was at a beauty school,” she said. “I thought that looked kind of interesting so I decided to go that route instead.”
Eileen attended Shirley’s Beauty School for a nine month course which consisted of 1,650 hours of training, then passed her state boards in 1971. Her first job was at Alma’s in Menomonie, then after marrying her husband Dean in 1973, the two of them moved to Ladysmith when Dean took a job at the Co-op. Eileen worked part-time in three different salons including New London and Clintonville for four years before they moved to Colfax when Dean became the Co-op manager at the local Cenex.
Darlene (then Braaten) owned the Deluxe Beauty Salon on Main Street in Colfax at this time and Eileen began working part time for her.
“Darlene eventually wanted to sell the shop and Dean and I thought I might as well buy it if I was going to stay in this business,” she said. “We borrowed the money from my dad, which was a cheaper interest rate then the banks had, and I became the owner in 1981. Dean had to help out with snow shoveling and fixing things around here so it kept him busy, too. Things are a blur from then on because I was so busy with my kids (Brad and Jennifer) in sports and school activities, and with me running a business, the years just flew by,” she added. Over the years Eileen had several part-time workers, but often times was the only one on her payroll.
“I have had some excellent, long time employees, but eventually they moved away or took other jobs,” ileen said. “Working part time as a beauty operator isn’t something most people want to do forever.”
After hiring Susan LaNou to work in the shop, Eileen decided it was time to lighten her load a bit and she decided to sell the business. Susan took her up on the offer and took over ownership about 10 years ago. That didn’t mean Eileen was done working however, as Susan asked her to continue on part-time.
Over the years, Eileen has seen a lot of changes in the industry which meant she had to keep updated on new techniques and styles.
“When barbershops began closing, we started to see a lot more men come in so I had to make sure I kept up with styles for them,” she said. “And hair coloring for women has changed a lot over the years, along with the use of curling irons and blow dryers. Even my title has changed. I used to be called a beautician, a beauty operator, a stylist or salon specialist. I added a tanning bed to the shop many years ago and Susan hired someone to do manicures. It seems like things are always changing and you have to keep up with the times to stay in business. I have learned a lot over the years.”
She doesn’t mean just in the hair styling business either.
“Dean always joked that all I did at work was complain with my lady customers about our spouses,” she said. “But my customers were very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about things like cooking, gardening, sports and medical issues and received a lot of advice on different areas of life. ”
Another big part of her job at Deluxe was doing hair for residents at the Area Nursing Home (now Colfax Health and Rehab) twice a month.
“This will be one of the hardest things for me to give up,” she said. “I really enjoyed working with the residents. They really appreciated having their hair done and you could tell they always felt better afterwards. But I will miss all of my customers and all the friendships I made over the years and I want to thank them for being loyal to me and the shop. I believe I made the right choice for an occupation because I talk way too much to have had any other job,” she said with a laugh. “I will still be around Colfax so I can keep in touch with people, just not working at the beauty shop,” she concluded.