Truckee hair salon changes hands, continues to serve customers old and new |

Truckee hair salon changes hands, continues to serve customers old and new

Rebecca O’Neil
Special to the Sierra Sun

Melissa Cox sold her business — the Truckee hair salon Coupe Sixty-One — and is moving to Mexico. The single mother of a 9 year old is one of many left with limited options caused by financial strain related to COVID-19. Unlike businesses across the state that laid off their employees and closed up shop, however, Coupe Sixty-One will remain in operation and in the trusted hands of one of its stylists, Anna Larson.

Challenges of being a single mother, business owner

“Basically I’m a full time single mother, meaning I have no child support, no one to help me take him while I work and due to COVID I basically had to stop working because I have no physical help,” Cox said, lamenting the closure of Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe.

Cox said unlike other parents with careers that could allow them to work from home, a stylist’s job does not translate to virtual platforms.

Cox said the salon, which grew from four to seven chairs by December of 2019, costs roughly $3,000 a month to operate, with insurance and tax.

Cox said she knew she was going to have to leave her seven year-old business in May, when schools began to discuss continuing remote learning into the fall semester. And yet, Cox had signed on a lease that would last two more years. Between her obligations to her son and her job, Cox said she was beginning to feel trapped.

Cox said the property managers were not offering rent relief and suspects that her small business loan was rejected because she didn’t ask for “enough” money.

Cox said friends and neighbors offered childcare, but plans always seemed to fall through.

“They’d offer and then a week later I would hear ‘little Joey got exposed and we’re quarantining for a few weeks,’” Cox said. “I learned over and over, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself.”

Cox said one of a few silver linings to her transition abroad was the ability to confide in her stylist in an honest manner.

“I felt comfortable being vulnerable and telling [Larson] I have no idea what to do, and for her to say, ‘I want it. Let me take it,’” Cox explained, “It’s bittersweet.”

Cox said her obligation to her son precedes all.

That is why she was calling from Capitola, right before crossing the southern border with an end destination just an hour north of Cabo, called Todo Santo.

“Apparently there’s a huge Truckee population in Todo Santos,” Cox said. “And we know a little boy there, so my son is excited.”

New beginnings

Larson, who owned and operated a salon in Maui, said she was grateful to be in a position to seize this opportunity and continue Coupe Sixty-One’s operations.

“When I left Maui, I did so because it was time to get off the island and start a family,” Larson said. “I didn’t want that tension.”

Larson said her children are now 12 and 15, and their remote learning experience is somewhat self-directed.

“I have a lot in me that I can put into a creative endeavor like this,” Larson said. “I have more space to focus on what’s mine again.”

Larson said her investment has already been rewarded. The salon receives new calls every day.

“I have tremendous faith in this industry,” Larson explained. “I’ve done hair for 25 years, through all kinds of different economies and it’s a strong business.”

Larson said in times like these, self care has only become more important, as evidenced by customers driving beyond county lines to receive services when salons first opened back up in Truckee in June.

Larson laughed at how the beauty — or self-care — industry was the most talked about sector during the economic shut down.

“It was kind of hilarious,” Larson said. “As an adult, there’s a nurturing component that goes with it. We all need to sit down a minute and take a moment for our selves so we don’t fray out.”

Larson said she is more than happy to utilize the space that her former boss curated.

“Melissa put a lot of love into the salon and I’m excited to step into role and that it wasn’t something she just had to walk away from,” Larson said. “It’s an amazing feeling when you create something in the community and you leave and it continues to thrive.”

Smooth transfer

The regulars of Coupe Sixty-One certainly appreciate the smooth business transfer.

Cassie Hebel, a long-time customer and the executive director for the Truckee Downtown Merchants’ Association, got a pixie cut before quarantine so she has not returned to the salon since before March.

Even so, Hebel said “the transition feels like a win-win.”

“In the uncertainty, newness can happen,” Hebel said.

Carmen Carr, another customer in the area and longtime client of Cox, said she is a direct beneficiary of Larson’s decision too.

“She doesn’t want to disappoint clientele,”

Carr said, “and she’s very accommodating.”

Carr said the present situation is an important opportunity to focus on local businesses to ensure their survival.

“If we focus on our responsibilities as locals this economy will not only survive, it will thrive,” Carr said. “It’s not just coming here and playing here, it’s coming here and rooting there.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

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