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When Warner Voelpert opened the doors to his hair salon in 1969, his creed was simple — treat those around you, customers and staff, like family and, of course, give a great cut.
Looks like his secret was quite as a success as Warner and his wife, Jan, prepare to celebrate five decades cutting, blow drying and styling at Warner’s Hair Design — a staple in the Huntington Plaza since its opening June 9, 1969.
“I love the people,” said Warner about what keeps him coming in — including at 7 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. “The job is no effort. I come to work smiling. I go home smiling, and the staff is pretty much the same. This is a wonderful place to be.”
"It’s our staff … the whole salon is the story,” added Jan, also an accomplished marathon runner. “(The staff) are the ones who helped us along the way. We would be where we are right now without them.”
A hair stylist since the age of 16, Warner took his entrepreneurial opportunity, purchasing an existing salon in Huntington Plaza in June 1969 near the carpet store. A fire in an adjoining part of the complex in 1982 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, according to Warner, as the business moved to its present location, with plenty of curb appeal, and has continued to thrive ever since.
“This was a home run from the beginning,” said Warner. “I have always been a people person. I liked being a leader, whether it was cub scouts, boy scouts. I worked at 14 years old. This was in my blood, I guess. I like the responsibility.
"He always wanted to run his own business,” said Jan. “This was a growing community at the time, and we had a good clientele. And this is still a growing community.”
Warner and Jan have been the driving force behind the salon’s success — but both are quick to point out that lasting five decades would not be possible without the dedication of the staff, some of who have been working with the Voelperts for decades themselves.
"We are very fortunate to have a loyal staff,” said Jan. “Some people have been here for more than 20 years. They are so loyal and wonderful too us. In business, you are only as good as your staff.”
“We are like a family,” said Warner about his staffers — many with him for more than two decades— Janet “JC” Cote, Carol Stine, Gina Marchione, Sandi Laltey, Helen Gray, Janet Delmore
Warner said he has always tried to be generous to his staff, with good pay and good pay and benefits, but in the end, he and his wife have developed strong friendships with his team.
“We really share the business … and we have always allowed them to manage themselves. We have an incredible amount of trust in them,” said Warner.
And that is the primary reason that in a few months, the staff will be taking over the management of the business.
"They made us … why can’t we help make them,” said Warner, who still plans to keep his 7 a.m. start time Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the foreseeable future. “I am going to keep my hands in it and help guide them to be as successful as we have been.”
This is just the latest in change for this salon, which Warner said had to adapt over the years to survive and thrive. Warner said years back, the salon had wash and set business every week, with the same 100 ladies coming in every week.
As the years passed, Warner said the business changed yet again, with more cut shampoo and blow dries, so customers would need to come in every four to six weeks, meaning those 100 clients turned into 400 to 600 with more time to provide more service.
In the 1980s, Warner said the salon was doing some 100 perms a week, but when that fad ended, he said his team made up for it with high-end hair coloring as well as adding Paul Mitchell products and services.
"I am proud of what we have done. I’m proud of our clients. I’m proud of our staff here. We celebrate each other every day,” said Warner. “Everyone is important. We treat everyone as a steady customer, whether they come once a month, once every six months. It has been great working with everyone.”
Warner’s Hair Design is open 8 to 5 Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 to 8 Thursday and Friday, 7 to 3 Saturday, and closed on Sunday and Monday.