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Muskegon woman celebrates 50 years as hair stylist

"In the lobby of The Creative Edge Hair and Day Spa on W. Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon, a woman chatters excitedly as a stylist takes her jacket.

"I can't wait. I'm always so excited when Marcia gets to my feet," she says as she is led into one of the salon's pedicure rooms.

Past the lobby, in the main room of the salon, upbeat conversations and laughter drift around the white-framed mirrors. Donna Aho, the salon's owner, stands by a counter in the shampoo and color room, stirring a bowl of hair dye. She is a small woman, dressed in black with a black smock, short white hair and fuchsia lipstick.

"At my age, you need to wear lipstick or you'll just fade away," she said with a smile.

Aho, 67, knows a thing or two about beauty. She has had 50 years in the industry to learn.

She had her heart set on a career in hairdressing when she was in eighth grade, and had gone to beauty school while still in high school as part of a co-op program.

"When I was very little, I would cut my own hair, but I wouldn't just cut it off like other kids.

I looked in the mirror and tried to create something — not that I'm saying it was any good," she said, laughing again. Aho laughs easily and smiles almost constantly.

In high school, Aho would give her friends pixie cuts using a blade she took from her father's razor.

She went to beauty school through a co-op program at Muskegon High School, attending her regular high school classes in the morning and the beauty school in the afternoon. When she started working as a hairdresser at Peggy White's salon in Muskegon's Roodmont neighborhood in 1961, Aho, then known as Donna Hare, was 17 years old and fresh out of high school.

"I was a shy little thing. I never knew how to say no," she said.

Luckily for her, Aho did not need to interview for her first job. White, who owned several salons in the area, also owned the beauty school Aho attended, and asked her to come work at one of the salons before Aho had even completed her training.

Aho worked for White for 23 years, leaving in 1984 to open her own salon, The Creative Edge, in the West Village strip mall on Sherman. Five years later, she expanded into space next door, more than doubling the size of the salon.

In 1994, Aho purchased the building at 1304 W. Sherman and moved the salon to its current location. With the extra space, she was able to expand the services she offered. In addition to hair services, The Creative Edge now offers manicures and pedicures, facials, massages, makeup application and waxing.

Aho said hairstyles are constantly changing, and she's seen some other changes in her 50 years in the business.

A haircut cost $2 when Aho started at Peggy White's salon. Now, at her own salon, the cost of a woman's haircut ranges between $25 and $40. Curling irons have almost completely replaced rollers.

Women used to have a standing appointment every week to go to the salon to have their hair set and would make the style last until the next week. Most appointments are now four to six weeks apart.

Some things haven't changed. Aho has five or six clients who have been coming to her every week for all 50 years of her career to have their hair set. She still meets several of the women she worked with at her first job for lunch every three months or so.

Aho said she would advise new stylists to watch everyone in the salon to pick up new ideas, learn to market themselves, go "over and above" with all new clients and always have a few referral cards on hand for clients to give to their friends.

"Word of mouth really is the best advertising," she said."

This article was first published on mlive.com.