Saturday, February 4, 2023

57 Years of Friendship and Quality Service: People of Winchester will Miss Jane Smith

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Story and Photos by Georgia Smith | Contributing Writer

On South College Street in Winchester, sandwiched between a convenience store and a pet groomer, is Jane’s Hair Salon. To many passersby, the location might be mistaken as just another gas fill-up spot, but to the patrons of the salon it’s been a place of friendship, memories and lots of laughter as the proprietor, Jane Smith, made customers look their best for business trips, proms and holiday parties. Her shop was a place to share accomplishments, to find a listening ear about life struggles and, yes, to delve discretely into town gossip. 

Jane Smith, who has been cutting hair in Winchester since 1965.

For almost 60 years, Smith has seen it all and heard it all as she washed, rolled, cut, colored, teased and blow dried the hair of thousands of loyal customers over the decades. 

But her reign as “the best hairdresser around” has come to an end. On May 20, Smith closed the door on a 57-year career. 

Smith started her styling business the same year, 1965, that she married her husband, Danny. She first styled at Sargents Beauty Salon in Winchester after she attended Tullahoma Beauty School and passed with “flying colors.” In 1971, she decided to open her own shop in the same brick-fronted building off College Street that she recently closed. 

Entering those doors feels like entering a time capsule. The walls are painted a hue of pink that’s faded over the years. The frame’s of the shop’s many mirrors are painted gold. The floor and the styling chairs feature a variety of colors and patterns from florals to paisley prints. Her shop is homey, welcoming and well-kept, even as it screams a 1960s vibe.

But what really makes the salon special, she noted, is the people.

“I made some really sweet friends. It’s just been a lot of fun. I’ve met so many interesting people and I love being involved with people’s lives. That’s my favorite part of this job,” she said. 

Smith with her blonde hair pulled up into a bun to keep it out of her way, wears gold earrings that match the mirrors in the shop, and pair of gray New Balance shoes on her feet.

Coming from a long line of strong women, being a business owner came easily to her, Smith said. Her mother, Nora Lee Hardin, played a large part in her successful career by pushing her to start her own business and being the salon’s bookkeeper as well as an enthusiastic supporter of her daughter’s aspirations. 

“My mother was the most independent woman I’ve ever known. She really was something. I’m just amazed at how smart she was; she was my mentor and the person that I looked up to most. Maybe not when I was a teenager because we tangled a little bit, but when I finally got smart, then I knew what a precious treasure I had in my life,” said Smith.

Smith said her family moved to Winchester from Decatur County when she attended eighth grade. She still lives in the same home that she and her husband bought. She planted her roots and now has a daughter and two granddaughters whom she adores.

She speaks adamantly about women’s rights and how nothing ever stopped her mother, who was her inspiration.

“You have to be you; you have to stand up in this world. You cannot let people run over you. Especially if you’re a woman,” said Smith.

She’s been honored, she said, to style the hair of many strong-minded women in the area. 

“I have had schoolteachers, businesswomen, factory workers, and so many other great people in my shop,” said Smith. “I’ve loved this business. I’ve met so many people… and I’ve buried so many people too. It’s really kind of sad. When I think back, I’ve gone through three generations while doing hair.”

As her retirement date neared, clients were sad about the closing of her shop. During Smith’s last week, they showered her with retirement gifts, kind words and embracing hugs. They reminisced and praised Smith for her willingness to lend a helping hand. Listening to their stories, Smith smiled at so many memories created by nearly six decades of service. 

“She called to check in with me when I had Covid. She’s a good one, like a second mom,” said Michael Fanning. 

“Jane is the greatest hairdresser ever. We’re not going to know what to do without her,” said Amanda Gebelt.

“I’ve been going here since I was a little girl. We are devastated that she’s leaving,” said Ella Gebelt, Amanda’s daughter.

People might come in for haircuts, but they receive so much more than that. They have someone who will listen, offer a genuine smile and a place to feel at home. Many people have sat in the chairs of Jane’s Hair Salon and not only come out with a new, fresh look, but a new way to look at life. Even though she hung up her smock, her charisma and kind heart will forever live within the shop, her clients, and the entire town of Winchester. After a bittersweet goodbye, Smith was off to the warm, sandy beaches of Florida in her white Mercedes for a well-deserved vacation.

Georgia Smith is one of nine Middle Tennessee State University journalism students who spent two and a half weeks in Franklin County this past May writing stories for the Herald Chronicle. More of their work can be found at www.theroadtripclass.com. 

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