It was the ’80s, and every woman was fanatical about heading to the salon. Hair could be a little eccentric and wild then, and making an impact instantly was a priority.
Big hair, curls sprayed to concrete perfection and total glamour were mandatory for Winter Park’s elite women, even if they were just heading to the grocery store.
Kendall McElveen remembers it well, and it’s what lured her straight into her mom’s profession.
“They all looked like movie stars,” McElveen said. “Everyone was obsessed with coming to the salon. … I got to be around exciting people who had exciting jobs and were beautiful.”
McElveen, who owns Kendall and Kendall Hair Color Studio in Winter Park, grew up in the hair salon. Her mom, Kendall Carney, is the original owner and was a staple of the Winter Park hair scene for nearly two decades. McElveen says she always knew she’d follow in her mom’s footsteps. The pull toward the whole scene of women socializing, being beautiful and supporting each other was too great for McElveen to resist.
“It’s all I ever really knew,” she said. “It just felt inherent.”
“She literally grew up in the salon,” Carney said. “It was natural.”
McElveen headed straight to cosmetology school out of high school, and she had her own clients by the time she was 18. The two became partners, with mom as the expert haircutter and daughter as the gifted colorist. They relied on each other to do their best but never had to say a word to know that.
“The expectation was unspoken,” McElveen said.
But she wasn’t always a pro. McElveen started hanging out at the salon at just 4 years old, was doing laundry and sweeping by 9 and shampooing by 13. She’ll never forget her very first shampoo — she had to stand on some phone books to reach the sink, and drenched the poor client to the underwear. The woman had to go home to change before she could get her haircut. Of course McElveen was embarrassed, but her mom was always there to lift her back up. She’s always been a mentor and soundboard.
“When someone believes in you that much, you don’t have the same kind of fear,” she said. “It instills confidence.”
That same caring way her mother mentored and taught her is how McElveen chooses to treat her staff and clients. She’s got a soft-spoken, instantly trustable nature, and it’s hard to imagine her being tough or bossy toward anyone.
Tara Jarvis, a stylist and manager for Kendall and Kendall, said that’s no show, and the respect they get trickles down to how they treat their own clients.
“She puts her faith in us. … I’ve never worked at a place like this before,” Jarvis said. “I came here and it’s like a family.”
“She’s the most professional, calm, joyful, considerate, efficient and effective woman I know that not only runs a business, but is a true artist in the business,” said Kelly Ginsburg, a client for six years.
And it’s the art that really keeps McElveen fulfilled. Having the same vision — which she says is old Hollywood glamour full of femininity — and seeing that come to life is one of the best moments you can have as a hairstylist. She specializes in color and said that no day or head of hair is the same.
Kendall and Kendall Hair Color Studio is located at 339 S. Park Ave. in Winter Park. Owner Kendall McElveen has been making the city’s women beautiful since she was just 17 years old, and makes her mark on Harriett’s Park Avenue Fashion Week for the second year in a row, with her stylists doing most of the models’ hair. Visit www.kendallandkendall.com or call 407-629-2299.
“Your client really is like your canvas,” McElveen said.
“Coloring hair is painting, and she is a painter,” Carney said.
And clients can feel that passion and gift too.
“It’s palpable,” Ginsburg said. “She infuses it throughout an entire staff.”
McElveen and her staff put their artistry to work during Harriett’s Park Avenue Fashion Week last week when they styled most of the models’ hair before they headed down the runway. She said it’s a little piece of heaven — a taste of what it’s like to be the director of her own film — where every second counts. Last year they did 90 percent of the models, and were so pumped afterward that they wanted to do it all over again.
And she loves that while they are artists and can get the thrill of working down to the moment at Fashion Week, they don’t have to be starving. She says it’s a great way to be creative while making a living, and she gets to create a culture that makes women feel beautiful and support her stylists’ dreams.
“I try to emulate the actions I’ve seen her take in the salon,” Jarvis said. “One day I hope to be half as great as her as a business owner.”