Celebrating Women’s History Month
When she started her cosmetology career on March 16, 1970, Ladonna Sandridge, with Unique Designers, never dreamed that she would be in the occupation for 50 years.
She began her career in Thayer at Sunset Beauty Salon before working for a few months at Shannon’s in Mammoth Spring.
“On Mother’s Day weekend in 1971, I started my own shop in a little building on Highway 142 East, by my parent’s house. Then, Unique Designers moved to its current site in November of 1980,” said Sandridge.
However, after more than 40 years at the location, the salon has been forced to move due to the Harps buyout of the shopping center. The official last day is scheduled to be May 15. However, the salon hopes to be moved to its new location on Old Highway 63 in Thayer, next to Thayer Gas with plans to hopefully open by early April.
Even though the salon is moving, Sandridge will officially retire from hairdressing as of March 26.
“It was just something I always wanted to do from the time I was very young,” said Sandridge, stating she had an aunt who was a hairdresser, and they would go to her shop. She would also do hair while still in school.
“You hear people say all the time, ‘I hate my job. I don’t want to go to work.’ I never had that,” said Sandridge, stating she still enjoys being a hairdresser. Ten years ago, Sandridge had breast cancer and was off work for almost a year.
“I have been blessed with many co-workers over the years and share a lifetime of memories. As I think of the years, I realize I have literally styled the hair of some of my clients for 52 years! I have given people their first haircut and was honored to help prepare them as they were laid to rest,” said Sandridge.
“You have to be there for them. I have to say that going to the funeral home, I have done best friends, family…That is probably the last thing I could do for that person and it always made me feel so good that I could do that to the point that I could give the family a good memory so they can look as much like their normal self as I could.”
“There is no way to explain the people that become your family because you meet so many people and they are just unbelievable,” said Sandridge, stating the good outweighed any bad she may have encountered.
Sandridge also worked for Matrix for a few years, traveling, working behind the scenes and helped prepare hair for the stage. She enjoyed doing this but chose to be able to spend time with her family.
Through the years Sandridge has also seen hairstyles drastically change from backcombing dos that last a week to the carefree, soft blow-dried styles. When asked what some of the most outrageous styles were, she replied the old-fashioned shag, which resembles what many also call the mullet. She also recalled the changes in perms as well as before the flat iron, some would use an iron to straighten their hair.
When Sandridge considered retiring and shutting the shop down, her co-workers objected because of the family atmosphere and wanting to stay together. “We have a good relationship, we get a long and just have a good time,” said Sandridge. “I have a good group. It’s my second family,” said Sandridge.
When it was announced the shop would be moving, it was met with much community support and many even helping to find a place for the shop to move to.
“My appreciation and gratitude [goes out] to the community. When you learned Unique Designers would have to move the shop, so many have stepped up and offered to help and provided us with so much encouragement and well wishes. We thank you, again, for the community support,” said Sandridge further expressing her gratitude.
“I want to thank everyone for their patronage and especially for the friendships over the years. I love being a cosmetologist and feel blessed to have enjoyed my occupation for so many years. I have appreciated the challenge of meeting the needs of each one of you. Thank you all again for everything, and I will see you around,” said Sandridge.
“I would like to invite everybody to come by,” said Sandridge, who will still be a presence at the salon, but not from behind the salon chair.
“I am grateful for the years I was given, for the customers and clients and friends that I have. I am very grateful,” said Sandridge.