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Pendleton College of Hair Design closing after 51 years of training beauticians

"In November, a cosmetology school that's been running for half a century will give its last cut-and-color.

The Pendleton College of Hair Design is closing, not because it isn't still a regional center for people to learn a useful trade, but because its owner fell in love.

Terrie Leen-Griebel has helped run the cosmetology school since her parents bought it in 1988, but after marrying a man in 2009 and moving to The Dalles, the 90-minute commute became exhausting. She hasn't had any takers to buy the school and keep it running, which she attributes to the economy.

"A lot of customers are sad we're leaving," she said one day while reclining in one of the shampoo-station chairs, sporting pedicured toes with pink nail polish and flower stickers. She's enjoyed giving haircuts and doing nails nearly her entire life, but since she took over running the cosmetology school, didn't get to spend much time wielding the scissors. Now, she plans on helping her husband, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, run his church, and she's considering her options.

Hundreds of students and instructors have come through the cosmetology school since the Phagen's chain originally opened it in 1960, and the salon is still the only one in the region to serve people starting their first, second or third careers.

Student Melissa Kenney-Wiley, wearing a necklace with a scissors pendant on it, took a break between customers to talk about why it's been worth it for her to make the 72-mile drive from her home in Arlington.

"I was one of those girls who did everyone's hair in high school," she said.

She's worked in special education and childcare, but her three daughters will be leaving home in the next few years, and it's time for a new project. She plans to open a salon in Arlington with another woman who's also attending the cosmetology school. She'll offer a variety of services, but having fun with daring cuts and colors is her favorite. "My oldest daughter looks like a young Joan Jett right now," she said.

She's not the kind of mom to disapprove of weird haircuts. "It's a great way to express yourself," she said, "and it always grows back."

Even in unstable economies, beauty salons remain a way for people to make a living and help others feel good about themselves. Instructor Mari Anne Cook said she's worked in a variety of jobs, but she's found she's loved teaching others the arts of hair and skin care. Now that the cosmetology school is closing, she thinks she'll probably open her own salon.

"It's kind of scary to open a salon and rebuild your clientele," she said. "But what do they say? You'll never go without booze, cigarettes and doing your hair."

This article was first published on news.opb.org.