Kaitlin Rice’s dream wasn’t to become a hair stylist.
The 30-year-old Marion resident originally studied cosmetology at Tri-Rivers Career Center to help pay her way through college. However, while earning her bachelor’s in psychology at the Ohio State University at Marion, Rice worked in several salons and fell in love with the craft.
“I strayed away from the industry a little bit, but I always ended up coming back to hair,” she said.
“I always feel bad ’cause people say, ‘Oh my gosh, this must be your dream,’ and I hate to say it, but in the beginning, no it really wasn’t.”
Now, Rice is taking her career to the next level by becoming the new owner of The Art of Style Hair Studio, located at 1713 Marion-Mt. Gilead Road. Rice took over the salon in March after the previous owner retired. The Marion Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the salon Sept. 24.
Rice already knew the salon well, as she had worked there from 2011 until 2016.
“When he (the previous owner) was ready to sell, it was definitely an option on the table for my husband and I,” she said.
But only five days after closing the deal, Rice had to shut down the salon because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Art of Style reopened two months later with an appointment-only model, then began allowing walk-ins in July. All staff members and customers are required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. In addition, the waiting room remains closed, so clients must wait in their vehicles until it is time to get their hair done.
Rice said the salon did experience some financial hardships during the shutdown but received plenty of client traffic when they reopened. The stylist has seen more than 300 clients since May.
“The first two months, we couldn’t find time within our day to have lunch,” she said. “And then, we did see a slowdown during the summer months as people were getting back out, just being out of quarantine. Now, we’re starting to see level ground. I say we’re steady, we’re not overly busy.”
As the new owner of The Art of Style, Rice plans to hire a full staff of at least 12 stylists. Currently, she has seven stylists and a receptionist and plans to hire two more people soon.
“I am so excited to begin this journey, and I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my family and friends,” Rice said in a news release from the Chamber of Commerce. “COVID has made the road uncertain at times, but our amazing staff and clients have really made it more than worth it. We know you have a lot of options in Marion for your hair needs, so stepping through our doors is invaluable to us. If you haven’t tried us, or haven’t tried us in a while, we invite you to let us take care of you. Thank you for shopping local, and supporting small business. We plan to be here serving your beauty needs for a very long time.”
More: Big Sandy Superstore set to open location in Marion
More: Family fuels the engine at Marion’s Wilson Bohannan Lock Company
This article originally appeared on Marion Star: The Art of Style hair studio in Marion under new ownership