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Hair Hut: She's the boss

Jaci Contreras, front, and Pam Hutmacher are still learning what it means to be business owners, but they're having fun figuring it out at The Hair Hut, their new downtown salon.

Pam Hutmacher still has to pause when she answers the phone.

"Thank you for calling ... Hair Hut. How can I help you?

Remembering the name of your business is apparently just one of the challenges you have to deal with when you're serving as your own boss for the first time after 35 years of working for other people.

Business ownership was never one of Hutmacher's goals. But when Deb Groehler decided to sell DBS Hair Design late last year she approached Hutmacher, her employee for the past seven years.

Hutmacher didn't know quite what to think.

"I probably didn't believe it at first," Hutmacher said. "I always thought I would just be the employee. Now I'm not."

But Hutmacher kept thinking about the offer. And when Jaci Contreras, whose daughter is married to Hutmacher's son, offered to help with the business side of the operation, Hutmacher decided to take the leap.

It's a big step to take. Hutmacher had never owned her own business. And she didn't know much about the business side of running a hair salon. Contreras knew about running an office, but she knew nothing about cutting hair. Together, they figure they make a good team.

Hutmacher knew she'd have a steady clientele to work with. Most of her clients have been coming to her for 18 years or more and at least one is a 31-year regular. She brought in a couple of other women to help out. Hutmacher does most of her work with older customers. She needed women who were better prepared to handle younger clients.

Running a business has taken some getting used to. Hutmacher can no longer just go home at the end of the day and let someone else worry about ordering supplies or paying the bills. Now it's up to her to worry about whether enough customers are coming through the door each day or whether the shop looks its best.

It's all a big adjustment for Hutmacher, who said she doesn't consider herself boss material. She knows hair, but she doesn't know business. Contreras, who has experience in office management, will handle much of the behind-the-scenes work. Hutmacher will handle the customers.

Customers are something Hutmacher definitely knows. She got into hair styling at the suggestion of one of her mother's friends and she fell in love with it. She is outgoing, with a big voice and a big laugh. She loves having the opportunity she gets to talk to people. And she enjoys making new friends as clients come back month after month.

"You share each other's lives, kids," she said. "People pass away. That's kind of how I lose them. I consider myself a warm and caring person. I put a lot into it."

Hutmacher, who has spent time at two other Farmington salons, said it's not unusual for a client to stand at the front desk for 20 minutes after an appointment is finished, just talking about what's been going on in her life."

Hutmacher and Contreras closed Jan. 5 on the shop, located at 317 Fourth Street in downtown Farmington. They're slowly getting used to the idea of running their own business. They're in the process of picking out new flooring for the space and figuring out what else they want to do to spruce things up.

"It's going to be a learning experience for both of us," Contreras said. "There's stuff that she's teaching me and there's things I'm teaching her."

It can all seem a little bit overwhelming at times. But Hutmacher and Contreras are both learning as they go. And they're finding their new roles surprisingly comfortable.

"I'm having way fun with it," Hutmacher said. "Probably more than I expected to. It's not anything I ever wanted. I never wanted to be the boss."

Once she gets used to answering the phone, she should be all set.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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