By Lisa Shrewsberry
Hairdresser suicide. That’s what Kenette Coffman calls the practice of not accepting new clients. In her 12 years of owning a salon and leading a team of stylists, she has yet to put out the No Vacancy sign. And in her brand new, swanky-yet-welcoming spot on City Avenue in Beckley, she’s not likely to tame her client-pleasing ways … not one iota.
Salons come and salons go; the good ones stay. Shear Style has earned a solid reputation as one of the good ones. Growing from a tight fit on crowded Second Avenue, across Robert C. Byrd Drive to its new location has been Coffman’s longstanding dream … a vision with parking to spare.
When clients would leave from her last address beaming ear-to-ear over their new look, she still remembered their confusion over where to park coming in. To Coffman that wasn’t a success. It was failure.
“If your clients aren’t being treated right by you, they will find someone who will treat them right,” she says, positioned and ready for today’s grand opening. She is known far and wide as a perfectionist and a sort of savior at correcting hair disasters.
“There isn’t anything I can’t do with color,” Coffman states confidently.
As committed as she is to distinguishing her salon, she credits the collective abilities of a number of Beckley salon owners and stylists with keeping southern West Virginia clients safely outside the Mullet Belt and firmly on the cutting edge of haute and classic hair styles.
“People perceive everything in West Virginia as being behind,” when reality is such that, says the prolific seeker of knowledge in her ever-changing field, “you can go other places with a progressive style you got here in Beckley and get compliments on it in Florida or New York. Our industry is not behind in this town at all.
“We all do what we do and we do it well.”
Recognized instantly in Raleigh County circles as simply Kenette, Coffman has spent her evenings since her summer real estate purchase driving there and just sitting, envisioning what would come from the former Praxair office space skinned down to bare concrete walls and rafters.
“I’d just stare and think, ‘Oh my God. This is really mine.’”
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How did the Flying Eagles girls’ basketball team shooting guard and softball star (also known as Billy Joe and Pam Coffman's daughter) break into hair styling? She attended Bluefield State College on a basketball scholarship and began working at a salon at the age of 19 as a receptionist in Princeton. There, a bit of her mother and father, both former stylists, started to emerge.
“I was always telling (the stylists there) what to do with people’s hair.”
Upon nomination from three creative designers with Zotos, a hair care industry leader, Coffman attended Little French Beauty Academy in Bluefield, W.Va. as one of only 10 annual Zotos beauty school scholarship recipients. She was chosen from among hundreds of candidates nationwide. She took it as a sign that she’d found her destiny.
Coffman’s beauty school training carried her as far away as Barcelona, Spain, and she has since traveled across the United States and to five different countries to learn color and styling.
Her willingness to invest in education has bought her escape from dated techniques and has earned backstage gigs at hair shows alongside style gurus like Annie Humphreys (whom she got to assist), Vidal Sassoon’s International Director of Color, Christopher and Sonya Dove, artistic directors of Wella International, among others.
She has conformed her scissors to client requests for pop culture coifs until her hands protested.
“I remember when Jennifer Aniston (during her Friends years) got a shag and everyone wanted it. I didn’t want to do a shag ever, ever, ever again.”
But Coffman could certainly shag, and otherwise get down, as she would prove nearly two decades later. She, along with dance partner Victor Flanagan, became the reigning first place champion for their performance for charity at United Way’s 2012 Dancing with the Stars.
Her parents were known for their dance moves and it is to them, her mother in particular, who she gives credit for the shot of courage necessary to open Shear Style back in 2001.
“My mom wanted this. She died from cancer 11 months after we opened the first location.”
A mother got the chance to see her daughter’s firm footing before passing on, perhaps enough so that she could imagine where it would lead, three locations later, to a stunning permanent home.
Coffman surveys six months of renovation as she walks across the new tile flooring (one of four personal selections she made; the rest were picked by noted interior designer Rivers Varn). Stone walls and columns that sparkle naturally in overhead lighting, tastefully contemporary décor and black, industrial ceilings — she is surrounded by sophistication and style, expressing pleasure that her stylists can now be proud to work in the coolest place in town.
Most of all, she reflects on everyone who helped bring her to this place in her career.
Her team of five other stylists, her manicurist/pedicurist and her three receptionists. Varn and the team with Innovative Construction, who turned renderings into reality. Close friends and supporters (“They know who they are…”) who offered love, support and reminders to Coffman to “just breathe.” As much as she has the community’s admiration, they in turn have hers.
“It represents my dream — they built my dream, “ she credits.
The newly renovated and relocated Shear Style salon is at 301 City Ave., Beckley. For appointments, call 304-253-8620.