Forty-nine years in business and counting! As they approach their semicentennial birthday, Adam & Eve Styling Salon & Wig Center owner Lori Burgard reflects on growing a thriving, family-operated business in Aberdeen.
When Lori Burgard was ten years old, her mother came home from her job as a hotel banquet room manager and announced she was opening a wig shop. Lori’s response was, “What?”
Her mother, Lisa Fjelstad (Bean), did not have a cosmetology license, or even any real experience doing hair. Sure, she had done the occasional styles for friends while they sat around her kitchen table over coffee, but nobody had predicted that would lead to her starting a business in Aberdeen that almost 50 years later is stronger than ever.
It was 1970, and wigs were all the rage when Lisa opened her store on Sixth Avenue, just a few doors from where the current salon stands today. She purchased 500 wigs (some of the brand Adam & Eve, hence the shop’s name) and her clientele quickly grew. With modern wigs being mostly synthetic, you only have to wash them and shake them out a bit and they will go back to their natural style and curls. However, that was not the case when Lisa was getting her business off the ground. Back then, the wigs were made of real human hair, meaning they would need some professional upkeep to look good. One day a friend, Dee Fiedler, asked Lisa, “Do you have anyone to style the wigs?” Her response was, “When can you start?”
The new business owner hadn’t taken this into consideration, but luckily Dee had recently received her hairstyling license and was up for the job. A couple of years later, Lisa began an apprenticeship under Peggy Ackerman, another stylist who worked for her, and earned a cosmetology license for herself in 1976. She then expanded the shop from two styling chairs to five, all while keeping the wig store. Lori was along for the ride, first helping in her mother’s salon by folding towels, sweeping floors, and answering phones, and then graduating from cosmetology school in 1981 and becoming a stylist. Though the career is definitely the right one for her, she admits it wasn’t her very first choice. Like most teenagers, she wanted to venture out on her own, and even though Lisa offered to pay for her education if she came and worked at Adam & Eve, Lori declined. Instead, she got a job at Control Data, where she spent a year feeling bored and getting into trouble for talking too much. “I figured I had better find a job where I could talk to people and still get paid. To this day, when I drive to work I’m not thinking about what I have to do that day, but about who I get to see and spend time with while I’m there,” she says.
Lisa and Lori worked together at Adam & Eve for the next decade, until Lori and her husband, who had both lived in the Aberdeen area their entire lives, decided they wanted to try something different. They relocated to Grafton, North Dakota, and Lori got a job in an office. She says they had been there about four months when her husband asked, “Are you going to cry every day we are here? Do you want to go home?” The answer to both questions was, “Yes!” And the couple soon returned, happily, to Aberdeen. Lori laughs, “I had only missed about one perm appointment with my clients, and thankfully, I got almost all of them back.” The mother and daughter duo picked up working together right where they had left off and continued to do so until Lisa’s retirement in 1996. Since then, Lori has been keeping her family’s business alive and well.
For two years in a row, Adam & Eve has won Northeast South Dakota’s Readers’ Choice Best Beauty Shop award. Their massage therapist, Danielle Larson, was also named the 2019 Readers’ Choice Best Massage Therapist. The salon has a countless number of clients, 17 employees, and in 2020, they will celebrate 50 years in business. Their success can be contributed to an amazing staff, outstanding leadership, teamwork, considerate price points, and the willingness to always change. They have grown from a simple wig shop and salon to adding spa services like massages, pedicures, manicures, body waxing, and facials, as well as cutting edge hair replacement techniques. They have also continuously knocked down walls, literally, as the salon has gone through several remodels over the years to keep it bright and modern. Their wig center is still an integral part of the business, and a unique one for the area, as their collection of about 30 wigs is the largest in town. Most of their wig clients nowadays are cancer patients, and Adam & Eve fits them for wigs free of charge. Lori explains, “It is a humbling experience that we can help people who are facing such a difficult time by providing them with solutions for hair loss so they can feel confident.” It also shows how they go beyond just doing hair and have tapped into really touching lives.
The salon has physically gotten bigger, as has Lori’s number of employees, the longest of whom has been with her for 25 years. When Lori attended beauty school, there was a Stewart’s School of Hairstyling in downtown Aberdeen, so it was easier for her mother to find girls in town who were looking for work. For her, finding staff has been one of the most challenging parts of being a business owner in Aberdeen. To bring in good employees, she sets her salon apart in one important way. “I am a mom first as a business owner, and I want the people who work for me to be able to be moms first, too. This is their job, but I give them flexibility so they don’t have to miss out on their kids’ activities and can enjoy their families,” she says.
The stylists at Adam & Eve are employed through the salon and earn commissions, paid vacation days, and benefits. This ensures that enough stylists are always there for walk-in traffic, which makes up a significant portion of their business, and that they can keep their price points tailored to the customer. Lori says, “We are a family salon, and we offer a variety of services and strive to keep an affordable price point for the community. Staying competitive in our pricing has been a factor in keeping our doors open this long.” Adam & Eve also takes their tagline, “Style for Every Generation,” to heart. They have stylists who specialize in younger generations, and those who take care of the elderly. Even when a client passes away, with the family’s wishes, they will style their hair one last time before their funeral services.
Perhaps one of the best changes that Lori has seen take place in her salon over the years is the addition of her daughters, Stacey and Stephanie, to the family business. Stacey, who recently graduated with a business degree from Northern State University, has been working in reception since she was a teenager and has advanced to floor manager. Just a few months ago, Stephanie moved back to Aberdeen with a cosmetology license and joined Adam & Eve’s styling team. Like Lori, the girls watched their mother run the salon while growing up and say they have learned a lot from her about what it means to be a leader. Stephanie gives an example: “She is up front working with the customers, the stylists, and her clientele. It is amazing to see how far this place has come, and to see how she gives clients what they want and what is best for them while providing for her staff and family.” Stacey adds, “I have been working here most of my life, and it is an absolute joy to watch my mother do this. She inspires me every day. I am extremely proud of what she and my grandmother have accomplished.” // –Jenny Roth
Adam & Eve Styling Salon & Wig Center is located at 1718 Sixth Avenue Southeast. You can reach them at 605-229-1700 or by visiting www.adamandevestylingsalon.com.