2012 Workshop in Henderson, Kentucky - Story list

A Family Affair

Pinar Istek

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Kelly Alvey (left) talks to longtime client, Rhonda Gillham, about how her hair got frizzy during a recent trip to Jamaica. Kelly enjoyed the trip, but says, "It makes you see how lucky we are here after seeing how they have to live over there."

Linda Moss comes to Kelly's Mane Event each week for more than a shampoo and set.

"It's a good place to learn about the weekly news," she says. "If one of them doesn't know it, the other one definitely knows. If you are feeling depressed or having a bad day, they are always laughing and going on, and they lift your spirits."

Attorney Ike Norment and his wife have been clients at Kelly's Mane Event for almost 10 years. He started coming to the salon after his secretary recommended it.

Kelly Alvey, 48,  a hair dresser for 30 years, bought the salon 18 years ago after running Princess Beauty Salon on Main Street for more than six years. Her new place was called the Cardinal Beauty Shop, but she renamed it.

"I knew that most of the patrons would remember my name," Kelly says. "Also, I liked the play on words of 'mane' as in hair. Like a lion's mane."

Kelly is proud of the business she has built — and grateful for the many friends her work has given her.

"The people I work with are like a family to me," she says. "In the working world today, you spend more awake time with your working family than with your home family. People really have to trust us, because how many people do you let touch your head and face? It becomes a personal bond. You build a clientele that stays with you. You build a strong relationship with them."

"I've been here for 14 years and I still love it," says Judy Brown, who went to beauty college with Kelly and now works in her shop."Just a group of good people. My boss, Kelly, is like my daughter to me."

Kate Smith, 92, comes to the salon every Friday morning to have her hair done. How long has she been a client? "Oh, years!" she says. "I don't know how many years, but a long time."

The ritual of women coming in for a weekly shampoo and style is disappearing as so many people now style their own hair at home. But for some of Alvey's older clients, getting their hair done is a way to get out of the house. "This is the only time they get to socialize," she says.

"I've buried a lot of customers," Kelly added. "We do go to the funeral home and fix their hair. I figured that's the last thing I could do for them."

As Kelly washed Dr. Michael Mayron's hair, she told a visitor that the neurologist diagnosed her vasculitis, an inflammatory disease that destroys blood vessels, in 2002.

"But she is the one that saves my self esteem every three weeks," the doctor replied. "Nobody is better than Kelly."

While undergoing treatment in 2003, Kelly went through a divorce. She got legal advice from Norment and emotional support from many other clients.

"After I got divorced, not having children, not being able to work, these people supported me mentally and physically," Kelly said. "This is one thing remained strong. My marriage failed. My health failed. But they didn’t. It is part of me.”

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Kelly Alvey (from left), Rhonda Gillham and Katrina Payne joke about how the book "50 Shades of Grey" made Rhonda's eyes red and swollen, even though the reaction is actually a result of seasonal allergies.

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Antique hair clippers are displayed on a window at Kelly's Mane Event. Kelly Alvey, the owner, has bought antique hair dresser tools at different auctions over the years.

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Kelly Alvey shampoos Pam Leadingham's hair after redoing her highlights at Kelly's Mane Event hair salon. Pam, who teaches math at South Middle School, has been a client of the salon for a decade. "It makes me happy to make them look better," Kelly says.

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Kelly Alvey blow-dries Jean Berger's shirt after doing her hair at Kelly's Mane Event. While washing her hair, Kelly accidentally splashed Jean's clothes.

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Kate Smith, 92, reads "People" Magazine, while she waits for her hair to dry at Kelly's Mane Event. As one of the regulars of the salon, she visits Friday mornings.

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Kelly Alvey cleans her station at the end of the day before she leaves Kelly's Mane Event. She said she used to hire a housekeeper to clean the salon, but can't afford it anymore. After she was diagnosed with vasculitis — inflammatory destruction of blood vessels — in 2002 and went through a divorce in 2003, her finances drastically declined.

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Kelly Alvey counts up her income from the past week on a Friday evening in the back room of her hair salon, Kelly's Mane Event.

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Kelly Alvey, (right), holds Gladys Luck's purse as she puts her rain scarf on after having her weekly hairdo at Kelly's Mane Event. Because 90-year-old Gladys has walking difficulties, Kelly assists her when she leaves the salon.

Story list | Next: A Hometown Hero

2012 Workshop in Henderson, Kentucky - Story list