Tribune-Courier features editor
For the past 63 years stylists at Polly’s Salon in Benton have been shampooing, cutting, teasing, combing, drying, curling, straightening, coloring, highlighting, lowlighting and otherwise “fixing” hair.
Deb Overby, current owner of the salon located at 1502 Main Street, bought the shop in 1985 from founder and namesake Hallene “Polly” Keith who had opened the salon around 1949. Keith then passed away in the late 1980’s.
Overby began working at the salon in 1971 and ten years later bought the shop when health problems forced Polly to sell the business and retire.
“I could either buy it or wonder who I was going to work for and what changes they would make,” Overby recalled. So she took over operation of the beauty shop as her own boss, retaining the original name of Polly’s.
While much has changed in the beauty salon business over the years since Polly’s first opened, one thing remains constant – customers want to walk out the door feeling better about themselves than when they walked in.
Overby said ever-changing hairstyles have enabled her to enjoy a creative outlet through her work. Fewer people are visiting the salon for the once-a-week wash and set and more are opting for updated hairstyles and color.
“That’s part of the reason I’m still in this business,” Overby said. It’s more creative and fun now - people cut, color and style their hair differently.”
The tools of the trade have changed as well. Overby laughed as she recalled the first time she heard of a hand-held hair dryer and wondered, “Why would I stand there and blow dry someone’s hair when I could just stick them under the dryer?”
In addition to the blow dryer, Overby has seen a constant change in styling tools. Various types of curl-creating rollers have come and gone over the years as improvements have been made to the methods used by stylists. Currently, curling irons and flat irons are must-haves for every stylist.
Overby said when she first went to work as a hair stylist it was not customary for men to visit her for services. She said she used to have her husband and children come in for haircuts, which eventually lead to more men simply because onlookers saw it as more acceptable. She said her clientele is now split about half and half between women and men.
Polly’s was also the first business in Marshall County to offer a tanning bed.
“We couldn’t get people in and out of the bed fast enough” Overby said, “People would change in the bathroom and when one person was done tanning another would jump in. It ran nonstop.”
Overby has three other cosmetologists in her shop; 19-year employee Paula Myers, ten-year employee Laurie Byars and relative newcomer Stacy Morris, who has been with Polly’s for two years.