Charlotte Heino, owner of Charlotte O'Hair Beauty Salon in Pine River, was paging through the Echo Journal weeks ago when she came across a Pages from the Past headline that caught her attention.
"My first job was at the Cut and Curl, which I saw in the paper in the last couple of weeks having their grand opening 50 years ago," Heino said. "That's where I started. So it's been 50 years."
It was a timely reminder because this year Heino decided it is time to retire.
" "Everybody's got a different story. You get to know their family. You go through their weddings and funerals and births and you become a close friend to a lot of them. You miss them...I will miss them. I guess I just didn't want to do anything else.""
— Charlotte Heino
"If my back and legs felt better I might not call it quits right now," Heino said. "But my body is telling me it's time to take it easy. I still work in my yard. I can do it at a lot slower pace and take a rest once in a while. It's been 50 years. It's just time for some younger blood in town."
Working in a very personal position, Heino has gotten to know a lot of people over the years whom she will miss. Being born and raised locally makes that even more true.
"I was born on a farm out west of Pine River," Heino said. "It was a great place to grow up on a farm. I went to a country schoolhouse for first and second grade. There were about 18 kids in our school together and three kids in my grade. One died in Vietnam, the other is still in the area."
Heino's family on both sides were farmers, but when she was around 10 they moved into town where her father worked as a builder. Her mother stayed home most of the time and may have been the reason Heino got into the business of doing hair.
"My mom always had to do her hair before we went to town or church," Heino said. "Maybe that influenced me. It just seemed to be a natural thing. I always liked it and never had any problem knowing what I wanted to do. I could never figure out why kids didn't know what they were going to do when they graduated because I just knew."
" "It's bittersweet. It will be a sad day when I walk out of here. Everybody says don't look back.""
— Charlotte Heino
She practiced cutting hair early on.
"I always knew I was going to go to beauty college," Heino said. "So I was doing kids' hair at home. Now I think about what I didn't know. So after I graduated I went right on to beauty college."
That's when she started at Cut and Curl in Pine River. A lot has changed since then.
"I was trained in razor cutting and a little later curling irons and scissor precision hair cutting came in," Heino said. "I kind of had to learn that on my own. It was changing. I did go to classes and then you just learn by watching."
Heino has watched the town change around her in that time with lots of business openings and closings. Even Heino has moved a time or two. She's been in her current location on Barclay Avenue since 1999; but for 18 years before that, her salon was in the building now housing Dr. Michael S. Marvin's Associates in Eyecare.
"My uncle had put in a laundromat down there," Heino said. "There was space left that they didn't need, so that's when I moved in."
During that time, Heino has had a family of her own. She met her husband, Joe, who is two years older, in school. He's now semi-retired from the construction industry where he operated Heino Construction. They have a son, who still comes home for free haircuts.
During her career, Heino has enjoyed getting to know her customers.
"Everybody's got a different story," she said. "You get to know their family. You go through their weddings and funerals and births and you become a close friend to a lot of them. You miss them. ... I will miss them. I guess I just didn't want to do anything else."
Heino shared in her clients' stories. She was a sounding board for them and over the years she learned a lot, including sad things.
"I've heard stories about abuse, divorce, being told they have cancer or learning their spouse is dying," Heino said. "You learn a lot about the people because you see a lot of them every week. They're dealing with their lives so you hear about it."
She's also said goodbye to a lot of people who were important to her. Recently that has included Mody Gardiner, who recently died.
"Every Thursday night through the years I always made fresh cookies bars," Heino said. "Every Friday I had coffee and fresh cookie bars. Mody came every Friday so I always left enough time for her to just sit and have a cup of coffee. We really enjoyed that, so that's fresh in my mind."
Of course, when you get close to people, there's good news too.
"There's a lot of happy things too," Heino said. "A lot of weddings and a lot of babies. You even get invited to some of their events."
Heino will be closing up shop the weekend after Thanksgiving. She doesn't know what she will do with her time, but she will continue one of her other passions - playing piano at church. For almost as long as she knew she wanted to be a hairdresser she's been playing piano and organ.
"We always had a piano in the living room at home and you just needed to kind of learn," Heino said. "I did have a year of lessons when we moved to town."
She has kept at it ever since. As a result she has her own "black beauty" - a baby grand piano she bought from one of her customers years ago.
"My husband had to redo our stairway to get it downstairs," Heino said. "But my piano is important to me."
She plays mostly church music.
"It reminds me of my family and my folks," Heino said. "My family can get together to sing and play so it has a warm spot in my heart."
This will likely be one of the activities she turns to once she's turned the keys on the front door of the salon one last time.
"It's bittersweet," Heino said. "It will be a sad day when I walk out of here. Everybody says don't look back."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.