Salon owner retires…stylishly

Published 11:29 am Saturday, January 13, 2018

Debbie Story knows hair. Since graduating in her late teens from the Hicks Academy of Beauty Culture in Norfolk, the 64-year-old stylist had been learning how to make her clients look their best.

We say ‘had’ because Story also knows when it’s time to put down the shears and walk away, though not because she was tired of working.

Standing on her feet for 46 years began to take its proverbial toll, and this past year Story decided, after talking with her husband, to retire in December.

“I always said I would work as long as my health allowed it,” she said in her now former shop, Hair Designs, which is located at 95 E. Fifth Ave., in downtown Franklin. “I prayed about it and shed tears,” she said about the decision.

That she chose to learn cosmetology is a logical choice in her family, what with five uncles who were barbers and one aunt was a hairstylist. Then there’s her sister, Winnie Robinson, who also first had her own shop in the Airway Plaza many years ago; Story worked for her for many years. When Robinson sold her the business and left, her sister decided to find another location as the shopping center was in decline. Looking around, the spot in downtown looked just right, and Story persuaded the owners to sell so that she could build.

Even as early as high school, she knew her ambition and enrolled in the beauty school days after graduating from Forest Glen in Suffolk.

“I didn’t let the grass grow under my feet,” she said.

Margaret Hicks, her instructor at the academy, made quite an impression on her from the start.

“She taught more than hair. She taught about life,” Story recalls, smiling. “We had to take a charm course and learn to walk and talk like a lady. She said I was her greatest project, and later asked me to come back to teach.”

But the developing love of interacting with clients had become stronger than the desire to instruct future cosmetologists.

Now, of course, the question the retiree faces each day is not what to wear for work, but what to do with her new-found time. In the meanwhile, her five grandchildren will likely be the immediate beneficiaries.

High Street United Methodist, where she’s a member, will likely welcome more interaction.

“It’s not been quite long enough since I retired,” Story said. “I’m not quite sure what to do, but I still need to be productive.”