After more than 20 years as a hair stylist and colorist, Kimette Collier Neufeld is still enthusiastic about her job.
“Each day, when I look in my appointment book, I get excited,” she said. “I love seeing which clients I’ll be spending the day with.”
In 1993, when Neufeld first opened the doors of Panache Aveda Concept Salon on Colfax Avenue, she was scared. After working for other area salons, she took a leap of faith by opening her own business in her late father’s Grass Valley real estate office. One of eight children, she bought out her siblings, renovated the building and opened her doors.
It didn’t take long for the fear to subside, as a steady flow of new and old customers have continued to fill the three seats in the cozy, state-of-the art salon for the past 20 years.
“We’re like family here,” said Kim Ummel, who has been the salon’s office manager for the past 15 years. “I love all our clients;some have been coming here since the salon opened. If I didn’t work here, I’d have to start making lunch dates.”
From day one, Panache has been an Aveda salon. Neufeld said she opted to carry their hair, skin and body care products — even when they were not well-known — because of their ingredients and top-notch business ethics.
“Aveda products are 99 percent naturally derived and organic whenever possible,” she said. “They get their ingredients from all over the world, but they don’t exploit the people or regions they are buying from.”
Neufeld’s biggest passion is working as a colorist because she gets to be part scientist and part artist.
She and her other two stylists, Laura Parsons and Steve Koenig, adhere to Aveda’s rigorous standards when it comes to ongoing training. Parsons and Koenig have also trained at the prestigious Sassoon Academy.
But sometimes it’s not about the hair, said Neufeld.
“We’re stylists, but we’re also part therapists,” she said.
“If someone comes in and wants to cut all their hair off, I say, ‘We need to talk. Is this about your life or your hair?’ Sometimes it’s not the hair.”
The strict code at any salon worth its salt is discretion, Neufeld added, as they do not condone the spreading of gossip.
“We get it. We are devoted to our customers; we’ve watched some of their kids grow up,” she said. “We honor people’s stories.”
Longtime client Mendy Burgasser says she continually has people ask her who does her hair.
“Finally, Kimette gave me some of her business cards so I can pass them out when people ask,” she said.
“I’ve always loved coming here because it’s a social hub.”
Nonetheless, the atmosphere is peaceful as the small size of the salon means there are rarely more than two or three clients at a time, which the staff — aka “dream team,” prefers.
A lot has changed since Neufeld pulled weeds as a child outside her father’s office. Today, the building houses her state-of-the-art salon, which she hopes will stay open for years to come.
“Retirement is not in my vocabulary,” said Neufeld, who now has two children in college.
“I’ve never regretted this path. It’s simple — I make you pretty and that makes you happy. That’s my reward.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.