I walked into the studio and was pleasantly confronted with a warm, soft room and a friendly face.
Karen Raciti, owner of Studio #104 in Phenix Salons in Scottsdale, Arizona shares her bright smile as I sit down for a chat.
Karen begins to tell her story of her introduction to the beauty world.
“I was in high school, very unsure of what direction to take after graduation. So many of my classmates knew the direction they were headed in. Not me. Our school at that time had very limited options for classes: typing, shorthand and home economics.
Then came three new extracurricular classes offered: nursing, dental hygienist and cosmetology. Having no direction, not knowing if I had a knack for anything at all, I signed up for the cosmetology class. It looked interesting.”
Interesting was enough for Karen to keep going to class. Half way through the course the students had to sign up for a contest. Karen chuckles, “I prayed and asked God to give me a sign if this was my life direction by letting me win 1st, 2ndor 3rdplace in the competition. And my answer came in the form of a second-place win. And I started to enjoy what I was doing even more.”
A couple of months after high school Karen Raciti stood with State Boards award in hand. Welcome to the world!
Her first job was in Detroit, Michigan at a unisex hair salon. This was the beginning of this new craze. Prior to that there were beauty salons for women and barber shops for men only. Her first job was working for the man who had cut her hair for years.
Karen, what were some of the highlights of those first years in the beauty world?
“There was an International Hair Show in London. I wanted to experience that. I felt that I advanced so much in my haircutting skills from that trip. They were years ahead of the States in their techniques in the beauty world.”
Until three years ago when Karen opened her own studio, she had only worked in 3 salons in Scottsdale since 1982.
Karen, you have worked your entire career in big studios, then moved to a one-woman show. What was the biggest challenge?
“I was one person working now, with no peers around. There is energy in a big salon. It is different being a Lone Ranger.”
The move proved to be a good one for Karen, who is constantly having to market herself and be confident about her skills. “I have to sell myself with so many more salons in the valley now. I am constantly selling myself and keeping up with what‘s happening in the hair world. Much of my business is by referrals or word-of-mouth.”
Karen lets out a small laugh. “Being in the beauty world since high school, 40+ years ago, I have never done a personal resume in my life! When I would go look for a job I got a personal interview on the spot. And I always got hired!”
After having been in the industry for so many years, the challenges have changed.
“I am getting older. I am constantly standing. It takes a lot out of a person physically. And the hours are long. When there is work, no matter how many hours I’ve put in that day, I feel I have to take it.”
Living in a community where the snowbirds move in for the winter months from cold states also affects Karen’s business.
“The clientele here in the Valley is always fluid. The people are transitional so this business here is highly uncertain. Who will be here next week and which clients are leaving for the next half of the year? It is never secure.”
Karen leans on her strong faith in God to keep her going. “I worked so many years worrying. I know now that He has a plan for my life.”
Being single, having no husband means having no secondary income. That’s an added stressor. Or “another reason to believe God wants His best for me. I have to believe that.”
To supplement her income over the years, Karen has used her craft to make the elderly beautiful. By going to homes – assisted living and nursing – and working her magic.
“I really am a people person. I get energy being with people, doing the work that I love. When I make someone else happy, when I see that what I am doing to their hair and hearts, that it makes others feel better about themselves, then I have done what God put me on this earth to do.”
One of Karen’s specialties? Being able to access what would make a person look a little more beautiful than they even know they can be.
I am one of those such people.
I went to Karen after moving to the Valley, and getting many botched haircuts.
One such time was two weeks before my daughter’s wedding last October. I was nervous, I wanted/needed to look my best. After all, Katie and Edward were going to have the pictures of this magical day for the rest of their lives.
I told Karen what I ‘thought’ I wanted. She studied my hair, the shape of my face. Made suggestions.
When I walked with my daughter down the aisle two weeks later, I was confident that the new cut Karen suggested, and the color, made me look like a timeless beauty. And the way I felt about myself shows in my smile in every one of the pictures that will be handed down from generation to generation.
Just a haircut and coloring? The art of hair is so much more than ‘just’ a haircut. Or ‘just’ a color.’
Walking out of the door that reads ‘Styles by Karen’ at Scottsdale Phenix salons into the great outdoors in the Valley of the Sun is more than crossing an errand off a list. Walking out of Karen Raciti’s salon where a person is treated like the most important guest of the day, looking better than imagined, is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Knowing deep inside that the artist with the Icon Shears in her hand, just did her best piece of art.
And that is you.