Whether it’s the barber’s chair or the beauty salon, the conversation is just as important as the cut. We’re gonna bring you a story of someone who’s been doing that and so much more for the community of White Lake for over 50 years.
“I always tell everybody, ‘You know, the conversations we have around this chair, stay here’,” said Kris Kieffer. “I’m always anxious to, for the next visit that they come in. Whether it be good or bad. We’ve had a lot of happy things. We’ve also had some sad things. But I guess that’s life,” said Kris Kieffer.
Kris Kieffer graduated from White Lake High School back in 1970. One year later, she graduated from Stewart’s School of Hairstyling in Sioux Falls and has been cutting and styling hair ever since. She still loves the profession. “I didn’t realize it was 50 years until one day I sat down and said to John, “Oh my goodness, I’ve been cutting hair for 50 years.” You know, it just kind of slips up on you. And I’ve enjoyed it still. I enjoyed it then and I still do,” said Kris Kieffer. “How do you keep up with the changes?,” asked Mike Huether. “I can still go to classes there and sometimes I look around and I think, I am about the oldest one here. But then somebody else that has grey hair will pop in and, and then I know I’m not. But I always search them out,” said Kris Kieffer.
Throughout her journey, one thing has remained constant. The importance and power of “the chair.” “It’s 50 years of it. It’s just, I always say, “It’s the chair.” You know, it’s just standing behind the chair that does it,” said Kris Kieffer.
As you now, that conversation with your barber or hairstylist is just as important as the color or the cut. Jenelle Erickson drives 40 miles each way from Alexandria so she can, as she told me, “chit chat with her friend, Kris.” “She cares. She wants to know what’s going on in your life,” said Jenelle Erickson. “She always brings the best out of you when you talk to her.”
Kris and Jenelle went to school together from the 2nd grade until their high school graduation. Jenelle has witnessed the difference Kris has made in their hometown through her role as a cosmetologist. “That love of the profession is still there?” asked Mike Huether. “Exactly. And you can tell when she cuts your hair that it’s still there. She hasn’t lost any of that,” said Jenelle Erickson. “I mean, if she can help those older ladies down there look nice, Kris is going to do it.”
Her role as a caring steward and good friend. In good times and in bad. “The cancer victims that I have seen three weeks after their first chemo treatment. Excuse me. That’s, they start losing their hair. And I, you know, had been with several and when it all comes out, and we cry together,” said Kris Kieffer. “Then after their treatment, when they come in that door and their hair is this long, we just embrace and cry again. Happy tears.”
And Kris, her role in White Lake a determined community leader. Ron Gillen, one of the biggest cheerleaders in town, explains. “Kris is no different. She spent her lifetime here,” said Ron Gillen. “Yeah, said Mike Huether. “You know, doing the work in an around, not only making a living, but it’s what the people do to help make White Lake a better place,” said Ron Gillen. “I always try to line her up and have her be on, on the team.”
Kris has helped tackle monster projects including the community swimming pool, the White Lake Clinic, memorial plaza, and the White Lake Main Street project, too. “She has the strength and the will, and the fortitude to just make it happen. And that’s what you got to have in a small town,” said Ron Gillen.
“You just got to have good community leaders to keep things going. And then that’s John and Kris,” said Jenelle Erickson. John is Kris’ husband and a former paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne. This loving couple has been together since their White Lake High School days. “When you see him in the community, they’re always together. And they’re holding hands, sitting together, and they’re laughing and, and whatever it is. So, it’s just like two high school sweethearts forever,” said Ron Gillen.
With the support of her hubby, Kris has expanded her small but important business in town. She also creates beautiful flower arrangements and has a tanning bed, too.
“Well, if you don’t have your… your small businesses, if you don’t have anything on Main Street, you don’t have a town. And Kris does that by keeping her beauty shop going,” said Jenelle Erickson. “The small businesses in town are the lifeblood,” said Ron Gillen. “Yeah,” said Mike Huether. “We’ve got a grocery store, café, two filling stations, convenience store types,” said Ron Gillen. “And you’ve got a hairstylist that has been doing this,” said Mike Huether. “For 50 years,” said Ron Gillen. “Yeah,” said Mike Huether.
Fifty years making a difference in White Lake and, yes, enjoying valuable conversations–behind her chair. “Never tell your customer your problems, because they came to you for their problems. And I’ve always remembered that. And, another thing she said was, you know, always just make them look as happy as they want to be,” said Kris Kieffer. “And I hope I am still doing that.”
“I have had some of the deepest conversations in life with my hairstylist Amy D,” said Mike Huether. Yes, I’m a man, she’s a woman, but I mean they’re, they’re deep. The same applies,” said Mike Huether. “Definitely. Definitely,” said Kris Kieffer. “Talk about that,” prompted Mike Huether. “I can’t. They’re too deep,” said Kris Kieffer.
When I asked Kris what the most important ingredient is in getting things accomplished in White Lake she said: “Always stay positive. You never have trouble getting people in town to help you when you do, and we have had a great time doing it.” Kris also let me know that even though haircuts and colors have been impacted negatively by the social distancing efforts, her flower sales have been doing well as folks are sending good wishes to family/friends in nursing homes or who are home alone– generating smiles along the way.