Hugs on hold; haircuts are a go

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BRATTLEBORO — As Shear Designs Hair Studio & Tanning celebrates its 25th anniversary, owner Joy Boyd is delighted to have won Best of the Best in four categories in the Brattleboro Reformer Readers' Choice 2020. Awarded for the best in Hair Salon/Barber, Tanning, Spa, and a runner up for the best nails, it was a bit of reparation for the rocky start this spring.

This past March, Boyd and her team were all set to celebrate Shear Designs' anniversary with daily specials at the salon and a flashback trivia game on Facebook during April. The community had always rallied around previous celebrations, she said. "I wanted people to step in, say 'hi,' and give a hug."

But as rumblings of COVID-19 starting to take root across the country and as Boyd stepped up the cleaning protocol, she was hoping her salon wouldn't be forced to close.

"There is no place I would rather be," she said back in March. "Businesses normally have ups and downs. I expect it will get quiet, I've weathered a few storms over 25 years."

Then came the mandates from Gov. Phil Scott to close on March 23, and the salon got really quiet until it was allowed to reopen on May 29, narrowing the celebration to the Facebook trivia questions where winners received a Shear Designs tote bag filled with $35 worth of products.

"Walking out and locking the doors was very hard," Boyd said. "For the first time in 25 years, I was driving into the unknown. I had to put my faith in the Lord. It wasn't something someone was doing to me, we were all going through this." The weeks that followed consisted of hundreds of phone calls and hours on hold to seek aid for the salon and get her stylists set up with unemployment.

But for Boyd, who has been styling for 37 years, it has always been about hair. "I always wanted to be a stylist. I would do my friends' hair in high school, and when asked in my senior year what I wanted to do, I said, I guess I do love hair."

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She went to Houle's Beauty Academy in Manchester, N.H. where she not only learned hairstyling but was taught how to do it well. After completing her apprenticeship at Village Hair Salon in Winchester, N.H. at the age of 19, she joined Hair Affair in Brattleboro.

She said she was content working for another salon for 12 years - until she wasn't. "I felt I deserved a little more and that the people around me deserved more. I wanted to give more to clients and I wanted to give more to the stylists."

She took some business classes, did her research, and started her own business with five girls and a large clientele in the former River Valley Credit Union building on Putney Road, converting the bottom floor into the salon.

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Over the years the salon has become so much more than just a hair salon, Boyd said. "It's been pretty great. You can give back in so many ways. It happens just by talking to clients."

Beginning with a Locks of Love Cut-A-Thon event 17 years ago, the salon has continued to give back to the community in annual events like Santa Toys for Kids, Countdown to the Classroom providing discounts to teachers and school staff as well as Back to School $10 hair cuts, and has raised monies for The Women's Freedom Center in the Rugged Maniac 5K obstacle course, and doing cuts at the Congregational Church Fair for the Westminster Congregational Church. Last year, almost $5,000 in products, cash, and services were donated to over 30 local organizations.

While hugs are on hold, Shear Designs has reopened. Boyd said they were fortunate to be able to offer all services (except beard trims), because of the size and the setup of the salon, albeit with fewer stylists on staff since some of the staff are not yet comfortable with one-on-one contact and have opted to stay home.

Although a few of the annual charity events have been canceled for 2020, Boyd plans to the $10 hair cuts for Back to School for teachers and school staff the second weekend of August and for children, the third weekend in August, with an option for hair cuts outside for those not comfortable going into the salon. She feels it is important to do the event, as it is the events that keep people connected.

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Today, there are 11 women under Shear Designs' umbrella. "The girls love this salon and the industry, and they have great people skills," Boyd said. "I'm really proud, this team. It is a phenomenal team. They support me and each other. They deserve lots of kudos."

Since she isn't going to be looking over the stylists' shoulders, it is important they maintain the salon's mission - "smile, laugh, and do great hair" - and to keep up with the industry with regular training of new products and techniques given by representatives from Paul Mitchell, Matrix, and Redkin, etc.

"Products have gotten so much better over the years." Boyd said. "In the past, we might have had two things to change the shades of blond, now we have many more and faster applications. We have to stay on top of our game as it will continue to evolve."

Also evolving is how to reach out to clients. Boyd said one needs to know how to navigate social media to reach clients, particularly the younger generation. "Lack of communication skills there can crucify you," she said.

Returning clients have shown just how appreciative they are of the salon's services, discovering during the closing just how much hair care is one of their essential services. Aside from basic salon services, Shear Designs offers a range of services not offered everywhere including Brazilian blowouts, hair extensions, and keratin treatments. Very popular are Shear Designs' wedding services. Hair, makeup, and nails may be done in salon or on site for all members of the bridal party. Visit for a complete list of the services and find it on Facebook to learn about special events and offers.

"It has never stopped being my passion," Boyd said. "It is an extension of who I am, I never feel I'm at work and I'm doing what I love to do. More than that, I have established so many great relationships, they have became my family. I want to thank every stylist who has ever worked here. Everyone meant something me. When I close the door at night, I don't close the door to my job. I'm very blessed."


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