CHAMBERSBURG – Master stylist Jenna Keller is from Iowa.
When this fact comes up in our interview, it causes both Keller and fellow master stylist Korie Groft to crack up laughing.
“There’s a joke,” explained Keller sensing my confusion. “How do you know if someone’s from Iowa? They’ll tell you within the first five minutes.”
“And it’s true,” confirmed Groft.
Checking the recorder, the Iowa revelation occurs right on schedule at two minutes and three seconds into our interview.
“Yes!” exclaimed Keller. “Crushed it!”
Of course, it doesn’t matter where Keller and Groft are from. (Although, because Groft doesn’t mention where she is from, we can safely assume that she isn’t from Iowa).
The point is this:
It is 6:00 p.m. and the pair has just finished closing up for the night, and even after having spent all day on their feet working side-by-side, Keller and Groft are still cracking each other up.
Groft and Keller are the co-owners (and best friends) behind Vanity Parlor (75 N. Main St.), the newest place to go for hair services in downtown Chambersburg, including cuts, color, facial waxing and Brazilian blowouts.
While Vanity Parlor is new (they held an open house event on November 30 and they officially opened the space to clients on December 11), the decision to open up their own shop was years in the making.
“We’re coming up on our five-year anniversary together,” said Keller of both their friendship and professional relationship.
“We met on the job,” clarified Groft referring to their first day working together at Bombshell Salon (300 Queen St.) five years ago.
“And I forced her to be my best friend that day,” finished Keller. “It was mostly me and Korie during the week and we became really close, and we work really well together. I don’t think we’ve been further than five feet apart since we’ve met – and that’s fine. We love it.”
When Bombshell closed, the pair went to Inside-Out Salon (1055 Lincoln Way E.). By this time, Keller was already thinking about opening up a shop of her own, and when she stumbled onto the 75 N. Main St. location, she knew she had to jump on it otherwise it would be gone.
“I went and looked at it, and I called Korie right away,” said Keller. “I want to do this, but you’ve got to do it with me.”
Plus, it seemed like a good time to jump into Chambersburg’s downtown revitalization.
“We knew that they were doing a ton down here, and we wanted to be a part of it,” said Keller. “To be in such a good location with everything building up – it’s just such a young, fun new chapter for Chambersburg.”
It doesn’t hurt that the location shares a wall with Bistro 71 (71 N. Main St.) and they are “obsessed” with their French onion soup.
And now that Bistro has added a brunch menu, an ideal day in downtown Chambersburg could include brunch from Bistro, an appointment at Vanity Parlor, and an afternoon of clothes shopping at Black & Blush Boutique (81 N. Main St.), which just had their formal ribbon cutting on January 31.
Groft’s only reservation was the parking situation. They wanted to be in the center of things, but it needed to be convenient for their clients, too. The location’s proximity to the King Street parking lot and ample on-street parking would suit their needs, so they got to work on the interior.
They bought the shampoo bowl from the owner of the salon that previously held the space, but sourced their own stations, chairs, mirrors and décor. And they spent hours and hours and hours repainting the dark gray walls. When their inspector was delayed because of the holiday, they serviced their already-scheduled clients at Inside-Out.
“We wanted it to feel like you’re hanging out at your friend’s house: you’re comfortable, everything is aesthetically pleasing, it looks pretty, smells nice, everyone’s in a good mood when they come here, and they leave happier,” said Keller.
This is where the “hairapy” comes in.
“One of our mission statements is we want to make you feel like the best version of yourself,” said Keller.
Achieving this requires open communication, which means asking the right questions.
What do you do on a normal basis? Do you like to spend time on your hair or do you not like to spend time on your hair? Do you want something that is easy? Do you blow dry it? Straighten it?
“The questions lead to what type of style we should give them” said Groft. “And then being able to create a vision that we can both see using the right words. A lot of people have a different idea of what ‘red’ is or what ‘blonde’ is or even the browns…Do you mean poinsettia red? Do you mean fire engine red? Do you mean velvet chair red?”
“You want to give them exactly what they want and you want them to be happy,” said Keller of clients who sometimes come in with unrealistic images from Pinterest. “It’s just making sure that you’re on the same page.”
The result of listening carefully and translating a client’s request – no matter how unorthodox it may be – is that when she leaves “she loves it, she rocks it, and she walks out feeling super confident and just loves it.”
The stylist-client bond is a notoriously close one, and their formal training includes psychology.
“It gets pretty in-depth because people tell you literally everything,” said Keller.
There’s the connection between Keller and Groft, and there’s the connection between the stylists and their clients, but over the years, many of their clients have also become friends with each other.
“Most of our clients are long-time clients, so a lot of times we all just kind of talk together as a group,” said Groft.
Keller added: “Korie and I have been working together for so long that our clients know both of us and our clients know each other from running into each other, being there at the same time, because a lot of our clients are on the same schedule. It feels more like a comfortable friend-family environment. ‘How is so-and-so doing? Did they have their baby? How is this person, that person, whatever?’ It’s cool because everybody seems like they legitimately care about what’s going on and how people are doing. It’s the small salon environment.”
There are inherent risks in making your passion your profession and making your best friend your business partner, but for Keller and Groft the transition into business ownership was a natural step.
“There’s that saying ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ but it’s so true,” said Groft. “I don’t ever feel like I’m going to work when I’m doing this – especially owning it. It really feels like you’re walking in your own front door.”
“We wanted to get to a good place to work, to love what we’re doing, to love where we are – and still be five feet apart,” said Keller.
[Main image caption: Jenna Keller and Korie Groft, the master stylists, co-owners and best friends of Vanity Parlor (75 N. Main St.), pose at their counter on January 24, 2020.]