Editor’s note: the following article is part of a series of articles The Tribune’s sister paper The Yadkin Ripple is doing entitled “The Day in the Life of.” The article is written in the first person from the reporter’s perspective.
Some may assume that hairdressers simply spend their days playing with people’s hair and gossiping about people around town and whatever celebrity is on the cover of “Us Weekly.”
This would be a gross understatement of the job that Beth Cockerham does four days a week at Salon 601. Cockerham who was a founder of Carson & Co. in Yadkinville has ventured out on her own, running her salon and managing a full client book to make sure that the residents of Yadkinville look stylish and put together.
I joined Cockerham for a Friday of shampoo sets, cuts, colors and yes, even some gossip.
Upon meeting Cockerham she personifies every expectation I have of a hairstylist. She is fashionable with a fitted blazer and flashy sweater, stylish jeans and red cowboy boots. Every hair is perfectly in place, and her makeup is flawless.
“A lot of hairdressers go in to work with their hair still wet and no makeup but I never allowed that when I owned Carson & Co. and I don’t practice it myself,” Cockerham said. “You wouldn’t show up to any other job like that and I see no reason for this job to be any different.”
Cockerham says that she started her career working in Elkin before coming to Yadkinville and eventually starting Carson & Co. She dedicated 20 years to her salon. In 2007, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she immediately began working half days to be able to take her to her doctor’s appointments and spend more time with her.
She eventually sold Carson & Co. so that she could be with her mother full time. After her mother passed, Cockerham returned to Carson & Co. and worked as a booth renter. She said that she had a very loyal client base and almost all of them stuck with her even when she took time away to be with her ailing mother.
“I am so blessed,” Cockerham said. “I have the best clients; there’s no doubt about that.”
Cockerham said that when she went back to Carson & Co. it just wasn’t the same for her and felt the need to make a change in her life. She noticed a business space available for rent at the intersection of Highway 601 and Old Highway 421. She walked into the realty company next door who was renting and within minutes she was touring what would become her next salon.
“It was a Cape Fear Transport and a doctor’s office before I rented it,” Cockerham said. “I completely gutted the building and created what I wanted.”
Today when customers walk in there is no evidence that there used to be rotten carpet on the floors or cinder block walls breaking up the open space. Salon 601 offers one of the most modern atmospheres in Yadkinville. Hardwood floors are offset by the black and white décor that was handpicked by Cockerham. She has thrown in accents of orange to honor the fall season.
Customers seem to appreciate the attention to detail that Cockerham puts into her salon. Almost all of her customers take not of the new orange accessories and compliment them.
Cockerham begins her day at 8 a.m. on Fridays, and she gets right to work at the stroke of 8 with a shampoo and set. This is a popular service for her on Fridays and she ends up knocking out four of them within two hours.
She jokes with her clients about new services sales reps have been pitching to her that are popular in big cities that would never go over well in a small town like Yadkinville. With a dedicated client base, she knows each of her customers on a fairly personal level and asks each of them for updates on family members or friends.
In turn, all of her clients ask her about her son. She is your typical proud mother and she brags on what a good kid he is while letting them know about his hunting trip that weekend and how well he’s doing in school.
As Cockerham dries, curls, teases and sprays each customer’s hair to a perfect coif top 20 hits play over the radio in the background. As the morning turns into lunch time, Cockerham starts moving on to haircuts and color. She says that she doesn’t schedule herself a lunch break during the day unless she has a cancellation or no appointments made during that time.
“I feel like I haven’t really worked if I’m not in pain at the end of the day,” Cockerham said. “I know that’s stupid, but that’s just my work ethic.”
Cockerham makes sure that her days stay busy, scheduling herself from 9 a.m. until on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.
She powers through her work day on a combination of Mountain Dew and nicotine. She gives each client a count of how many Mountain Dews she has gone through at that time and each client is patient with her if she’s enjoying a smoke break when they arrive.
“I have all the clients I want right now,” Cockerham said. “I could work 12 hours a day and seven days a week if I wanted.”
Cockerham said that what many people don’t realize is that hairdressers don’t have the freedom of making their own schedule or taking spur of the moment vacations.
“Hairdressers don’t get sick days or off days or lots of vacation,” Cockerham said. “I don’t set my schedule, my clients set my schedule. If I miss one day I am behind for at least a week, so I only take sick days when I am on my death bed.”
As she finishes each client’s hair and they settle up, she puts her focus on cleaning up her station for the next one. She laughs as she wipes down every surface around her station and sweeps calling herself OCD about the cleanliness of her salon.
It seems to pay off however; the door to Salon 601 stays busy throughout the day. By 5 p.m. she is welcoming her last client of the day who’s there for a cut and color. She’ll wrap up her day having given nearly 10 clients a fresh style for the weekend.
Monday she’ll return to her salon to perform a deep clean before she begins her week all over again.
The quality of her work is not only clear through the pleased look on all of her customer’s faces but also by their dedication to her.
“She’s not just a hairstylist, she’s a counselor,” laughs one client.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.