After nearly 50 years of setting hair, Lois Brewer will be putting away her cutting shears at the end of this week.
“It’s been a good ride,” she says. “When I walk out of here, it’s going to be teary.”
Friday, June 28, will mark the final day of a 47-year career for the Belton stylist, and the end of an era of her shop, Style Setters, at 551 N. Scott.
Brewer, 65, was 18 years old when she began learning the trade, one that ran in the family.
“My dad had three sisters who were old-time hairdressers. I was just around it and knew it was my calling,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do something to make people happy and feel good, and I think I had it my blood.”
Today, there are now 10 practicing beauticians on her father’s side of the family.
“It’s been a good career,” Brewer said. “It’s put food on my table, it’s put some kids through college...I’ve just been blessed.”
Even before her first gig in a salon, Brewer said she was interested in styling hair.
“I’ve always liked messing with hair, even as a kid,” she said. “I was pretty good about cutting people’s hair that I shouldn’t have cut, too.”
Brewer moved to Belton during her freshman year of high school with her mother and siblings from Merwin, a small community in northern Bates County, after her parents divorced.
After marrying her husband, Marvin, in 1965, and graduating from high school in 1966, Brewer’s husband was sent to serve in Vietnam.
“I needed something to do so I worked at a hospital and did hair,” she said. “I couldn’t make up mind if I wanted to be a nurse or a hair dresser.”
Brewer enrolled in the House of Heavilin beauty school on Troost in Kansas City in the fall, and completed the program a year later.
She worked at Fashion Lane in Grandview and Mr. Roy’s in Belton, before she went to work at Peg’s Style Setters, a salon owned by Peg Elkins, 40 years ago. When Elkins retired about 15 years ago, Brewer decided to purchase the shop with Linda Welch. After Welch retired in 2009, she took sole ownership.
There was always one golden rule Brewer held in her shop. “I don’t tolerate any gossip coming out of here,” she said.
Instead, her shop became a place known for a good chat.
“My little ladies say they’re going to miss the conversation,” said Brewer, of the closing. She said she got to know the families of her customers, and they got to know hers.
While the quality of her work never changed, the styles did.
“Oh my, they did,” Brewer said.
From the influence of English model Twiggy, figure-skating legend Dorothy Hamill, Princess Diana, and American actress Farrah Fawcett, Brewer has seen close to five decades of hairstyles come to life in her beautician’s chair.
Also sitting in her styling chair, she has also seen multiple generations come to her for their hairdressing needs.
“I’ve had some of the same ladies for more than 40 years,” Brewer said. “They’re the inspiration. I’m going to miss the friendships. Your customers become family.”
And still to this day, she has had customers as old as 103 come through her salon doors, like a good friend.
“Some of them I’ve lost, and I’ve gone to the funeral home to make a request to the family to do them,” Brewer said. “It can seem odd, but I don’t mind because they’ve been part of my life.”
A successful career has been a result of having the right mentors in her life, Brewer said, which included Mabel Fulwider, Calla Sautz and Elkins.
She’s also always kept her prices low.
Early in her career, Brewer charged $1.75 for a shampoo and set. With inflation, her services were only a mere $15 for a haircut this year – a bargain for services from experienced beautician.
“A lot of our (customers) are on a limited income,” Brewer said. “Often, the salon is the only place women get doted on.”
Throughout her career, Brewer also had the opportunity to work side by side with one of her closest friends, Style Setter stylist Jodie Ring, who also recently retired from the business.
“She and I started together at another salon 40 years ago, Brewer said. “We’ve been friends forever. What a way it is to end a career with her.”
After Friday, Brewer will move all of her equipment out of the shop. She hopes that maybe another budding beautician will take the space over.
“I would love for it to continue on as a beauty shop,” Brewer said. “It’s been going on here for more than 50 years.”
In retirement, Brewer hopes to spend time with her friends, along with traveling, quilting and gardening.