One of Waunakee’s longstanding businesses has closed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, ending Dave Loeffelholz’s 50-year career as a hairstylist.
Loeffelholz has operated Styles by Dave in three different Waunakee locations since first buying a Main Street salon in 1974. But fearing for his customers’ health, he recently made the difficult decision to close his salon on South Madison Street.
He said he closed two days before the Governor’s Safer-at-Home order went into effect but then fully intended to reopen. That first month, his wife, Joan, helped him order shields, masks and capes for his stylists, along with a thermometer to take temperatures of all people coming in.
“The more I thought about it, the more I thought, why do I want to go through all this?” he said. The shop would be unable to reopen with a full staff.
“I was afraid I would get the virus and pass it on to clientele and not necessarily know I was doing it until it was too late. That I couldn’t do,” Loeffelholz said.
Loeffelholz grew up on a farm just outside of Dickeyville and enrolled in Madison Beauty Academy in 1969 right after graduating from high school.
“I always loved doing artwork and bulletin boards in school. Whenever my mother would get a perm at a beauty shop, it always looked so nice,” he said.
A friend in high school enrolled in the academy with him, and the two roomed together.
Afterwards, he worked at Salons of Fashion off the square in Madison with Leo Kalscheur of Waunakee and Duane Nelson, who went on to open a salon on Main Street in Waunakee.
In 1974, he bought that shop, then built his own shop where Summit Credit Union is now on South Madison Street. Styles by Dave was located there for 22 years, until Loeffelholz built the existing salon across the street and operated there for the past 14 years.
Asked about some of the more memorable hairstyles, Loeffelholz said in the late 1960s and ’70s, big hair was in.
“You couldn’t get it high enough,” he said. “We wondered when were done piling it up, how these women were able to drive a car. They must have a sun roof because everything was high. I thought that was kind of fun.”
The techniques to achieve that height have changed, too. Then more teasing, backcombing and bobby pins were employed.
Also years ago, people washed their hair less frequently, often visiting the salon weekly just to have their hair washed and styled.
“Today you don’t hear that. That’s not a styling thing that goes on today,” Loeffelholz said.
He remembered a standing appointment with a woman who came in weekly at noon or 1 p.m. to have her hair done.
“We did that until her death. You get to know these people,” Loeffelholz.
Asked about the most surprising hairstyles that have cropped up, Loeffelholz mentioned the colors.
“The most surprising were the pinks and purples and greens. The coloring part was something I certainly didn’t grow up with or learn about in beauty school or trade shows. It can be pretty, but it’s unusual for me,” Loeffelholz said.
Now, people are much freer with their hairstyles than they used to be, he added.
“In the ’70s and ’80s, you pretty much did what everybody else was doing. Nowadays, you can get your hair done or not get your hair done, wear it long or pink,” he said.
Also, men did not go to salons for haircuts initially. When curly hair for men and afros became popular, some came in for perms, and afterwards, his salon had a mix of men and women, and Loeffelholz said he liked the more diverse clientele.
Loeffelholz said he and his other stylists got to know their clientele well.
“You build those relationships with people. You learn about their families and where they’ve gone,” he said. He always made a point to remember details of a client’s life told to him over a haircut.
Some think of salons as rumor mills, but Loeffelholz pointed out they are no different than other places where people congregate.
“I think beauty shops get a bad rap as gossip type places. But I know when they’re in bars, people do the same. When they sit around in a coffee shop, they’re doing the same thing. I don’t think we did anything much different than most people do anywhere,” he said.
Most of all, Loeffelholz said he will miss his staff and called them “the world’s greatest.”
“What a great group they were,” Loeffelholz said, adding, “I always enjoyed my work.”
He is also grateful to his wife for all of her help as he got his business up and running while juggling her own career and raising their children. Joan has also helped in closing the salon, he said.
Loeffelholz said he has no definite plans for this next chapter of life. A Town of Springfield resident, he will have more time to devote to his flower gardens, and he believes someday, he may find another job, he said, adding he loves working with people.
“I can’t imagine me sitting around for the next 20 years,” he said. “I pretty much doubt I’ll do hair again.”