Not many business owners can say they’ve survived a tornado and a global pandemic in a year’s time.
Jenni Bybee can. She owns Salon Knot LLC in Rogersville.
Months after rebounding from an April 30, 2019, tornado, the new coronavirus made its way to the Midwest.
“I was like, ‘Man, are you kidding me?’” she says, regarding being forced to temporarily close her shop in mid-March amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Just as it did after the tornado, the Rogersville hair salon has quickly bounced back from six weeks of being shuttered. But it’s not without bruises, Bybee says. Once Salon Knot reopened May 5, she estimates the business lost nearly $15,000 during closure.
“That’s obviously a huge blow to any business, especially one as small as mine,” she says. “And especially just a year after the tornado.”
That tornado destroyed Salon Knot’s building at 71 Endeavor Drive, where it opened in 2015. Bybee says the twister struck less than an hour after the salon closed for the night.
The community responded with support, she says, notably an $8,000 contribution via a GoFundMe campaign, and the salon reopened 15 days later at 424 Redbud St.
The grit Bybee accrued through the tornado experience was put to the test again in March. Despite the COVID-19 impact, she says the business has been resilient.
“It’s been an incredible two weeks back. We’ve been able to make back everything that we had lost in that six weeks,” she says, pointing to customers purchasing gift certificates and staff providing home delivery service for hair care products. “I’m really thankful for that.”
Bybee became a hairdresser in 2003 after graduating from the Academy of Hair Design Inc. She says she enrolled in the academy to learn a trade while figuring out what do for her “grown-up job.”
“I got behind a chair and just fell in love with it,” she says. “We all have a natural calling. And I don’t think I realized how important it is for me to be around other women … and making sure they felt better than what they did when they walked in the door. I get more out of that than any part of my job.”
Her early hairdressing employment included a three-year stint at The Cottage Salon LLC, beginning in 2005. A year later, Bybee added teaching to her salon skills, landing a job at the Paul Mitchell school in Springfield. By 2007, she professionally focused full time solely at Paul Mitchell until 2015.
“It’s allowed me to do both of the things I love,” Bybee says, adding she’s maintained a full-time teaching role at the beauty school since opening Salon Knot.
Bybee says she started her salon to provide more credibility to her students.
“It’s hard to teach something you don’t do on a regular basis, so I was looking to get back behind the chair and make sure I was authentic in the things that I was teaching,” she says, noting she spent $13,800 in cash to open the salon.
Bybee works at her salon every Tuesday and Thursday, but also is available by appointment. At Paul Mitchell, she’s education director for the cosmetology department and travels once a month for the company as an advanced education specialist.
“It’s insane and crazy, but I love it,” she says.
Blessing in disguise
Salon Knot’s staff size is small, but Bybee says there’s no shortage of clients.
The three hairdressers have roughly 125 clients apiece, with a goal to eventually reach 200, she says.
Melissa Jean, co-owner of wedding venue Creeds Town LLC, says she regularly recommends clients to Salon Knot. Jean, who also is a longtime customer, has made referrals dozens of times since 2015. “She’s very good about working around people’s schedules,” Jean says, adding for her that has included night or early weekend morning visits.
Haircuts and coloring makes up roughly 65% of services at the salon, Bybee says, with the other 35% devoted to blowouts, hair and eyelash extensions, spray tans and airbrush makeup.
The shop has done steady business since opening, annually growing in revenue to a record high of $89,000 in 2019. Even a tornado couldn’t stop the growth.
Last year wasn’t even the first time Bybee had to deal with a twister. The 2011 Joplin tornado killed her mother, Regina Bloxham.
While the 2019 tornado didn’t lead to loss of life, Bybee says it was still an emotional experience. Insurance covered most of the damage, but it still led to an $18,000 revenue hit for the business.
“It was really humbling. It just reminds you how fragile all this is and none of it really matters,” she says of the financial loss. “The lives of my friends and family are what’s really important to me.”
After the tornado, Bybee quickly regrouped and found her current space after Tender Heart Animal Clinic LLC owners Barry and Kim Retchloff reached out with an available building for lease.
“They are incredible and I couldn’t have done any of it without them. They were so gracious,” she says, noting her roughly 2,000-square-foot shop was a former farmhouse.
Bybee plans to add an esthetician later this summer. Full-body massages, waxing and facials will expand the salon’s service menu. It’s an addition that wouldn’t have been possible in the old shop’s 1,000-square-foot space. Today, Bybee sees the tornado as a blessing in disguise.
“I wouldn’t have told you that in the moment, but yeah, absolutely,” she says. “Our new facility is beautiful, and has such great character. It has tons and tons of room for growth.”
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