John Ackley didn’t set out to be a hair stylist. Carpentry was his stock and trade, as his father was a contractor.
A motorcycle accident resulted in a broken leg, and that changed everything.
“I took a tour of Madison Academy of Beauty, and it was all women,” said Ackley. “I was 21, so I said, ‘Where do I sign?’”
Ackley and his sister, Pat Hageland, opened Genesis Hair and Day Spa in 1979. Located at 148 Market Street in the Village of DeForest, the business they own together is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. He’s enjoyed every aspect of it.
“Just being your own boss, making your own decisions and seeing new kids come up and turn out as good they do and finding new careers,” said Ackley. “When people get their hair done, it just makes them feel good and that’s nice. We’re business owners. I’m not saying we’re good business owners, but we’re good hairdressers.”
Genesis wasn’t always in its present location. It used to sit across from the Landmark Tavern at 105 South St. and was once an old bank building. A second floor was added, and Ackley used to live above the business until he got married.
“Then, they tore down the downtown, put in a new library, and businesses went away,” said Ackley.
A Realtor told him about an opportunity to move into the old power and light building.
“It allowed us to move and make an offer,” said Ackley.
Ackley said Hageland had always wanted a day spa. Relocating to that facility gave them the room they needed.
Now, they’re landlords for the building, which also holds Aranda’s Mexican restaurant, Stronghold Athletics and an accounting business.
The footprint of the building, originally constructed in 1929, is 11,000-square-feet, including the parking lot.
Around the time of Ackley’s accident, his sister was part-owner of a hair salon in Madison. Ackley and his father remodeled the building, which was an old Shell gas station. Ackley was asked to join the business, until the partnership ended. Afterward, Ackley and his sister went to do hair for Yost’s clothing.
“After a couple of years, Pat and I decided to pool our resources and find a building,” said Ackley.
Their nieces, Tania Fanson and Sarah Schuppener, have taken over most of the management duties. Fanson has worked at Genesis for 27 years and works with Madison College’s apprenticeship program. Ackley appreciates how the school prepares hairdressers for their careers. Schuppener worked the front desk in high school before becoming a service provider, and she manages Genesis’ presence on social media and the internet, along with managing the day spa. Services include massage, body treatments, nails, pedicures and eye lash extensions.
“We call her our overeducated one,” joked Ackley, noting that Schuppener has her aesthetician license and does nail care.
Both nieces have worked hard to get where they are at Genesis.
“The kids worked for two years before their state board exams, and then they worked two more years to pay us back,” said Ackley.
Genesis Hair and Day Spa now has 10 hairdressers, two to three receptionists and one massage therapist. Ackley said all but one or two of the hairdressers have come through Madison College’s program. They go back to school to update their training every two years, said Ackley.
Ackley indicated he and Hageland are trying to cut back on the hours they work at Genesis as they transition into retirement, although Ackley said he’ll probably still work there a day or two a week.
Ackley said the village has been very accommodating to Genesis and added, “The community has been very good to us.”
And Genesis has returned the favor. As Ackley said, “It’s been a good run.”