Valarie Gibson-Smith and Rayna Hollingsworth marked the fifth anniversary of their ownership of Hayden’s Salon in downtown Hutchinson last week by being named the Hutchinson / Reno County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Month.

Both women went to work for the salon directly upon graduating from hairdressing college – though those graduations occurred more than a decade apart.

Gibson-Smith has been at Hayden’s for nearly 25 years and Hollingsworth for 12.

The bought the salon together in August 2014, when founder Hayden Hitchcock and his wife, Karen, decided they were ready to cut back on work and prepare to retire.

Hitchcock started the salon in Hutchinson in 1972. Both women began there as assistants to Karen.

“We learned a lot from them,” Gibson-Smith said of the Hitchcocks. “They taught us all they knew. You really learn a lot of the trade after school.”

The business has operated out of several locations in or near downtown over its 47 years, though it’s been at its current site on the ground floor of Plaza Towers, 13 E. Second Ave., since 2006.

“This is what I’ve always done” as a career, said Gibson-Smith.

She briefly attended college, majoring in psychology, but dropped out. She started working as a model at Sidney’s Hairdressing College in Hutchinson and decided that was what she wanted to do.

That’s also where she met her husband, another student there, who's also one of the 13 employees at Hayden’s. He’s been there almost as long as she has.

Hollingsworth is a graduate of salon college in Missouri. The two partners share many of the duties of operating a salon, though Gibson-Smith handles more of the bookkeeping and Hollingsworth the ordering, training and salon’s social media presence.

“We definitely complement each other,” Gibson-Smith said. “We can both do what the other does, but one of us usually has more of a focus.”

“We’re always trying to be growing and thinking about new things coming up,” she said. “Rayna and I talk a lot about what opportunities there are. We make sure the staff is well educated and up-to-date. We usually pay for one class a year, and sometimes we bring in a salon educator.”

Their employees work on commission, except the receptionist, who is hourly.

Many of their employees have been there as long as the owners – and many of their customers too.

They have openings, however, for a couple of stations in the salon.

The salon is an “Aveda concept salon,” which means it only uses and sells Aveda products.

The hair, body, and skincare line “is cruelty-free and strives to take care of the environment,” Gibson-Smith said. “We try to embody Aveda’s mission and our own. We try to be as environmentally conscious as we can.”

They offer flexible hours to their employees, so the salon’s operating hours aren’t set.

“Our hours are Tuesday through Saturday, usually starting at 9 a.m.,” Gibson-Smith said. “We work into the evening based on what’s on the books for appointments. We’re generally here until 6, but sometimes it’s as late as 9.”

Hayden’s is one of only a few salons that offer supplemental insurance, paid vacation and retirement plans.

The business is also community-oriented, recently partnering with the Coffee Corner to offer free haircuts for the community. In April, the salon partnered with the Audubon Society, raising $2,000 for a clean water project at a Nature Center in Arkansas City. They annually sponsor a tailgate party to raise money for Salthawk football.

Gibson-Smith is on the USD 308 school board.