Hair stylists united by friendship, cancer

Three stylists educated at different schools and working at two Tiffin salons now are working together at Salon Source 2000 on West Market Street.

A graduate of the Tiffin Academy of Hair Design, Lisa McClellan is the owner of the shop. Erica Meier and Nikki Ellis, formerly of SC Salon, have joined with McClellan.

“Clients are meeting each other and getting along and it’s really a beautiful thing,” McClellan said.

Meier and McClellan have been acquainted for at least 10 years. They came to one another’s shops for continuing education sessions and often compared notes on the services they were offering at their respective salons.

Ellis had been employed at SC since 2008, after graduating from Fremont Academy of Cosmetology Educational Services.

“My instructor at the Tiffin academy was the woman who opened up FACES and was (Nikki’s) instructor, several years in between,” McClellan said.

Those connections and a series of events for the shop owners brought the three together.

Meier met her husband, Brad, while she was studying at Ohio State University and he was at barber school in Columbus. They got married and bought a building in downtown Tiffin to house Sports Cuts and SC Salon. Both shops were doing well, but then her husband was diagnosed with leukemia in 2004.

In Columbus, Brad Meier went through a treatment regimen that cured his cancer but weakened him physically. It became more difficult for him to spend long days on his feet at Sports Cuts. As health care costs kept rising, the self-employed couple struggled to maintain insurance coverage for their children and their business.

Cancer also had affected McClellan, whose sister, Gayla, died of cancer in March 2011. In October 2011 and 2012, McClellan hosted cancer cut-a-thons at her shop and donated the proceeds to Financial Assistance for Cancer Treatment, an organization that had helped her sister. McClellan invited local stylists to participate in the effort. Meier was on the mailing list.

“I sent out several letters and she literally got her mail, opened the letter and called me that very moment, crying. ‘I’ll be there to help you,'” McClellan recalled. “She was the very first to respond right out of the chute.”

Ellis, who specializes in spray tanning, also joined the cut-a-thon. Two members of her family have been treated for skin cancer. For her sister, a tanning bed evidently was to blame, because the cancerous lesions arose in areas not normally exposed to the sun.

“My sister had three spots of skin cancer removed, and so did my dad,” Ellis said. “But my sister’s were just recent, so that’s what really sparked my interest in spray tan. … I figured, why not offer a safe way to get that look that everybody wants?”

The company that supplies the spray tan products is based in Toledo and provides services for numerous pageants, television programs and celebrities. Ellis also specializes in hair extensions, and she is a licensed massage therapist.

During the October cut-a-thons, Meier and McClellan realized how much they enjoyed working together and decided somewhere along the line, they would become co-workers.

That time arrived sooner than expected.

Last summer, Brad Meier started looking for a job that would include health insurance and less physically demanding working conditions. He applied for a position as an inspector or barbering instructor for the state of Ohio. Sports Cuts remained open at reduced hours for regular customers.

In late October, Brad Meier got a response to his application. A position was opening and he was to be hired to teach classes for inmates at a correctional facility in Mansfield. The Meiers closed both hair businesses and put their building up for sale.

Ellis knew about Brad Meier’s job search, so she was able to relocate to a shop in Fostoria. Remembering McClellan’s comment about working together, she called her friend at Salon Source.

“Erica called me at 10 o’clock one night … and said ‘Do you still want to work with me?’ I said ‘Of course,'” McClellan said.

With the holidays so close at hand, McClellan wanted to get Meier moved in as soon as possible. Meier said relocating also took her mind off the closure of her shop and helped her transition to the next phase of her career.

“It was like a Band-Aid,” Ellis observed.

Meanwhile, Ellis was having second thoughts. Working closer to her two children was attractive, but she did miss working with Meier.

“When Erica first closed, I lived in Fostoria, so I gave it a go over there, but I lost a lot of my Tiffin clients. When I came to get my hair cut, Lisa offered me a spot here then,” Ellis said.

The second time McClellan offered, Ellis accepted and started seeing clients at Salon Source last month. Many of her Tiffin clients already have scheduled appointments to come back.

McClellan said she views the collaboration as a joining of two businesses, with her as the landlord.

“They don’t work for me. They work with me. They rent their spaces, so they run their business as they see fit. They come and go as they please and make their own hours. I guess I kind of mentor a little bit, because I’ve been doing it so long, but I don’t tell them what to do,” McClellan said.

The trio plans to continue the FACT cut-a-thon this October at Salon Source 2000, 458 W. Market St. For more information, call (419) 447-2030.