It’s the end of an era in the Oak Harbor business community.
Longtime North End hairdresser Carla Dozier retired at the end of 2021. Though the business owner of 40 years has entrusted her salon to new hands, she said the relationships she’s made, kindled by confidences shared over clippers and forged by the heat of curling wands, will last forever.
“When you’ve done somebody’s hair for over 40 years, you’re family,” Dozier said. “That’s why it was so hard to say goodbye.”
Dozier’s career began when she was just 16 years old. She attended beauty school on nights and weekends and obtained her hairdresser’s license before she graduated from high school. After several years of working in a salon, she decided to start her own business.
“I was young and ambitious and a risk-taker, so I took the plunge,” she said.
Her salon, Carla’s Shear Inspiration, was located in the Oak Harbor town mall for five years, until she eventually purchased a share of a building on Bayshore Drive, where she has operated for the last 35 years.
Over her four decades in business, Dozier said she has cultivated many friendships in the community; she has even served the children and grandchildren of some of her original clients.
One such friendship is with her fellow hairdresser, Nancy Van Dam. Van Dam and Dozier have worked together for around five decades. They were coworkers at the salon where Dozier first worked in Oak Harbor; when Dozier left to open her own business, Van Dam came with her.
“I was so grateful when my good friend Carla opened her salon,” Van Dam said. “She was a great salon owner and stylist that always kept the salon a very professional place to work.”
Now, after parallel careers, Van Dam is joining Dozier in retirement.
“I have loved my career. Even after all these years I still very much enjoyed being a stylist,” Van Dam said.
Being a hairstylist, Dozier said, is more than cuts and blow drys. It’s being a part of people’s lives through their ups and downs, their milestones and important events. It’s being a constant during times of turmoil.
To many, Dozier said, regular conversations with a trusted hairdresser become a kind of therapy.
“We kind of felt like we were a sanctuary for people because there’s things that people tell their hairdressers that they don’t tell anybody else,” she said.
For that reason, Dozier said she noticed that people don’t give up their hair appointments. Whatever else is going on, people make time and set aside money for cuts, colors and stylings. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which Dozier considers the “final challenge” of her career, has been a time when people have sought emotional support and social interaction in the familiar comfort of a salon chair.
Throughout her decades of service, Dozier also sought other ways to help people beyond simply listening to them.
She recalled seeing clients during times of economic instability, such as the recession of 2008. Dozier said the salon would sometimes offer blow drys and other services for free to clients who couldn’t afford them.
“If somebody truly was in need, we would do it,” she said. “Those are the types of things that have blessed us throughout, because we were willing to do anything we had to do to help people. That’s what I’ll miss.”
The salon also participated in fundraisers hosted by local charities over the years, such as a campaign to help breast cancer survivors.
Now that she’s retiring, Dozier is passing along her building to Aaron Wiley, the owner of Seaside Spa and Salon in Coupeville. The location of Carla’s Shear Inspiration is currently being renovated into Seaside Spa North. Wiley said Dozier has been helpful and encouraging as Wiley makes the space her own.
Wiley has dreamed of opening an Oak Harbor location of the Seaside Spa in Dozier’s building for around five years. She and Dozier met at a salon business conference in Portland in 2016, and Dozier invited Wiley to come visit her space.
“I fell in love with it instantly. It was the same feeling I had when I walked through the Coupeville location the first time,” she said. “I just knew.”
Dozier said she and Van Dam hadn’t made definite plans to retire yet, but when Wiley made them an amazing offer on the building, they knew it was the right move.
“It means so much to me that Carla chose me to carry on this legacy,” Wiley said.
Seaside Spa North will provide all the same services as the Coupeville location, plus additional spa amenities and a new shopping boutique. The spa is only taking existing customers while construction is ongoing. Wiley said she hopes to have the first phase of construction finished by the end of the month.
For Dozier’s part, she said she isn’t sure yet what she will do with her sudden influx of free time, beyond visiting her 92-year-old mother in Greenbank and enjoying her newfound ability to have lunch with friends in the middle of a weekday, but she is excited for whatever will come next.