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Ruthie Messick, nearly 74, is retiring Aug. 1. She passed the reins to Katie Sandler, with whom she’s worked for 33 years, Jan. 1. (Elizabeth Hustad/Laker Pioneer)

Cypress Salon, situated in the small retail pocket of downtown Mound just behind the American Legion, saw a quiet change of ownership Jan. 1 that will be made apparent in August when Ruthie Messick retires and puts half a century of work in the beauty industry behind her.

“What am I going to do without her?” laughs Katie Sandler, who took the reins from Messick as Cypress’ new owner just two and half month before the coronavirus pandemic saw the shop close for just as long.

The two have worked together for 33 years, ever since Sandler joined Messick at Delo Beauty in 1987. Even though Sandler said she’ll be hiring another stylist, “there is no replacing her.”

“I’ll be very into doing nothing for a while,” said Messick, who is 74 July 12.

Messick built up a regular clientele over the years, and eventually it was he retirement of another industry leader that led Messick to open Cypress. Delo’s owner closed her shop Dec. 21, 2003, and Messick opened Cypress two days later, on Dec. 23. As Messick tells it, the owner had asked her to “figure out where we’re going to work.”

“I had always thought about it but didn’t want to step on her toes and open a different shop when she was still wanting to be in it,” said Messick. “And we’re family; we didn’t want to leave each other.” Indeed: Delo’s former owner didn’t end up retiring but instead came to work at Cypress.

“We’re a really down to earth people here,” said Sandler. “This place runs itself. Everybody here is so committed to making this happen. It’s their business, too.”

The stylists at Cypress are all independent contractors, and Sandler joked that she’s just there to pay the bills. It’s the same model that she and Messick had worked under at Delo Beauty. “When I started in 1970, I had decided that I did not want to work for anybody anymore,” said Messick. Both ladies spoke to the commitment piece of working for oneself, with Messick also commenting that  “Your fate is all on you. You can’t blame anybody” if you’re not making it.

The close-knit group at Cypress has for years been a high point for both Messick and Sandler, and when one of their long-time clients breezed into the shop one recent Monday morning to schedule an 11 o’clock for the next day (and deliver a healthy dose of good-natured sass) before, posing her head of curls and asking, “Don’t you think I’m ready?” it was just business as usual.

What hasn’t been business as usual is the beauty industry itself. “The business when I got into it was mostly shampoo sets, and you had the same people at the same time every day of every week,” said Messick, who noted a kind of generational shift away from the weekly beauty parlor treatment and more toward cuts and coloring and doing your hair yourself.

Years upon years’ worth of changing styles, fads and techniques have gradually been added to Messick’s and Sandler’s repertoire. The salon still has its weekly regulars, but “We’re doing pink and purple and blue hair now instead of perms!” said Sandler.

When Messick makes the final cut Aug. 1, Sandler said she aims to keep the salon just as it always has been.

“We are so comfortable here—and we are so busy. We are a great salon, and my vision is to continue it as long as I can and hopefully pass the torch to somebody else here,” said Sandler.

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