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#OTGYpsi: Combing Through Ypsilanti's Vibrant Hair Artist Scene

Though many of Ypsilanti's hair businesses suffered financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the loyalty of their long-term customers has helped many of them bounce back. Lisa Barry and Sarah Rigg talk to Claire Broderick, one of several local stylists interviewed for this week's story about Ypsilanti's vibrant "hair artist" scene.


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: A pandemic can't stop Ypsi's vibrant hair artist community

Sprig's Hideaway

This, That, and the ODDer Things

Star Studio Ypsi

Headspinners Salon


Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89-1 WEMU and this is On the Ground Ypsi, a conversation with On the Ground Ypsi project manager Sarah Rigg, who writes weekly online stories for the Concentrate Media information outlet. So hi, Sarah, what are we talking about this week, and who else is joining us?

Sarah Rigg: We've had a couple of people suggest to us, actually multiple times, that we do something to kind of do a survey of the various hair businesses and hair salons in the greater Ypsilanti area. Just because we have such a wide variety, all have their own sort of unique spin on things around you, the atmosphere of things they specialize in. We also know that they took a hard hit during the pandemic when they had to be closed for about three months. So, I checked in with five different hairstylists in our area to talk about a variety of things from the long-term clients to what their specialties are and why they like Ypsilanti. And I have brought with me Claire Broderick, who actually owns two businesses. She owns This, That, and the ODDer Things. It's a gift shop in Depot Town. And, in the back of that is her hair salon, Sprig's Hideaway.

Lisa Barry: Hi, Claire. Thanks for joining us.

Claire Broderick: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Lisa Barry: I hear you get into Sprig's Hideaway through a secret door. Is that correct?

Claire Broderick: Yes, you can. If you're a first-time client especially. It's kind of hard to find the back entrance. So, if you come in and while the shop is open, then one of my gals who works the shop will take you back through my secret passage, which is the bookshelf in the back.

Lisa Barry: So tell us about your salon.

Claire Broderick: It's just me. I work alone and even opened the set up, so that I could practice safety through COVID and all that jazz. So, I've actually been a hairdresser for about 20 years, and I've lived in Ypsilanti for 15 years. But I've been hanging out in Ypsilanti for, like, 20 something years, so I'm very happy to be in my hometown.

Lisa Barry: Are you a hairstylist or a hair artist?

Claire Broderick: I would say more hair artist and an artist in general. The front store, partly, I opened it, so that I could sell my own art. It's the whole thing's kind of an artistic venture, if you will.

Lisa Barry: What's the difference between a hairstylist and a hair artist?

Claire Broderick: Well, I think that, I think a lot of further education and going and trying new things. And, you know, there's different trends that come out where techniques are learned, and creativity can just be exploding from, you know, even within the natural tones of color to the vibrance. And the vibrance are pretty popular these days. But now they're coming back and being a little bit more muted and, you know, kind of color placement and adding a little bit of jazz into some of these natural tones even can be really exciting and really artistic and creative. Whereas. I think maybe if people just call themselves the haircutter or hairdresser or something, they might just, you know, work at a place where they don't push the boundaries for their creativity, and they just are focused more on getting people in and out of the chair.

Lisa Barry: What would you say your specialty is?

Claire Broderick: I'm a color specialist for sure, but I really do haircuts and color, and I've kind of blocked out all the rest of the stuff. I also do extensions and stuff too, but mostly haircut and hair color.

Lisa Barry: There were several months during the pandemic that you had to close completely, correct?

Claire Broderick: Yes, there was.

Lisa Barry: And what impact did that have on you?

Claire Broderick: Oh, that was really difficult. That was really difficult. I had wonderful support from clients and friends, which I really, really appreciate and could not live without that support in my life. It's amazing. But I it gave me the opportunity to move my business from the solo salons in Ann Arbor to Depot Town in Ypsilanti and to build the space out, which was formerly the area gift shop to This, That and the Odder Things with Sprig's Hideaway in the back. And so, you know, it really gave me that time and that boost to be able to make the move and to do it, you know, with as much safety in mind as possible. And, you know, so I just kind of built it up from there. But, yeah, four months of not working. I've been self-employed my whole career since I was, you know, in my early 20s or whatever, so it's just really, really strange to be in a position where, like "What? I can't work. I'm self-employed. This is so weird." Like, I can't work and, you know, so scary. I, you know, at the time, didn't know what was happening like all of us. And so, I think diversifying my income was really kind of what I ended up really working hard towards just in case. And so, yeah. So, both were made.

Lisa Barry: Sarah, who else did you talk to for this week's article?

Sarah Rigg: I talked to Angel Vanas, who owns Star Studio by Angel downtown, and she described her studio's kind of being high energy and artsy. She's always laughing about her music loud. And she talked a lot about how different people are looking for different atmospheres. And I hear someone be really quiet, a lot like experience, but hers is high energy. And I also talk to DaSharra Smith, who owns Headspinners Salon, and she was fun. She's got clients that she's been seeing for 30 years. And a lot of the people I talked to actually haven't seen the same heads for, you know, 10, 20, 30 years. And then I talked to two hairdressers who are kind of semi-retired and mostly just cut hair in their home. And they had really fun stories, too, like the one the hairdresser, Rosaline Meeks, told me that she'd been doing hair since she was 15, and she decided to go to beauty school to actually get certified after somebody asked her to put a perm in their hair. She told a woman she probably shouldn't do it and ended up doing it anyway. And the lady's hair fell out. So, she had to go to school to make sure that was never going to happen again. And then the other person I talked to works from home. She's Gwen Thomas, although she is currently also helping out at the next one from one of the longest in operation, African-American hair salons in Ypsilanti. The owner--or co-owner--Shawn became very ill shortly after they were able to open up after the pandemic closure. And so, his wife, Hala, was there working by herself. So, Gwen kind of came out of retirement to help out down there. So there were a bunch of people, very artistic, very sort of interested in people--people persons. So, they were a lot of fun to talk to.

Lisa Barry: And, Claire, you realize as a hair artist and stylist, you can make or break a person. Just saying.

Claire Broderick: Yeah, you know, I've been privileged in some ways enough to do hair of famous people or people, you know, about to go to the Olympics or people that, like, are doing these really crazy, amazing things in life. And for all the years I've been doing it and, you know, all the opportunities that have come my way. And then, it's pretty amazing the the lives of other people and what they go off to do. And you think in the back of your head, like, "Yeah, that's my look I created for them.

Lisa Barry: Claire Broderick. It's been fun chatting with you. Ypsilanti hair artist. And, Sarah Rigg, always good to talk to you for On the Ground Ypsi as well. Thanks to both of you.

Claire Broderick: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Sarah Rigg: Thanks, Lisa.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu


Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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