NORTH DUNDAS — Karen Parker is a strong woman, with a welcoming smile.
She’s survived and thrived in the business world for 30 years and earned her place in the Hall of Women Warriors (not real but it should be).
Karen is a Chesterville girl: born, raised and never left. Her dad worked at Nestlé and her mom worked at the dental office in town.
“Chesterville is home,” she notes. “It has everything you could ever need.”
Karen says nothing runs straight in Chesterville.
“My grandfather used to say that the river runs one way and the railroad runs another,” she laughs.
After graduating from high school, and a sharp shove towards becoming an Educational Assistant, Karen found her passion: hairdressing.
“I went to school in Cornwall at the time and we had an hour lunch break, so I walked around town and went past the Art & Technique Hairstyling School and decided to apply.”
Her ramble resulted in a 30-year career with no end in sight.
Karen graduated from Art & Tech with perfect attendance, driving through some wicked snow storms to get to class and often beating the teachers in.
With a trade in the bag, Karen started off at a salon in Morrisburg before opening her own business in her parent’s garage.
But building a business takes long days and thick skin.
“I remember one week, haircuts were $5 and my accountant had told me that it doesn’t matter how much you make, just pick a day once a week to go to the bank and deposit your money,” explains Karen. “I set the date for Friday and I remember walking in with just a $5 bill because all week I’d only had one haircut.”
But that was then and this is now and not even a pandemic can dampen Karen’s determination. She’s built four shops in Chesterville and still has a smile on her face, despite the financial hardship of the past two years.
Karen says her success is thanks to hard work and education. She keeps up with the latest trends and is constantly taking online courses to learn new things.
“My dad used to love watching me work,” she notes. “He passed away five years ago – he’d sit right there and he didn’t interrupt…just sat and watched me work. He used to say that people walked in looking like they’d just rolled out of bed and walked out looking like a million dollars.”
Karen says being a hairdresser has filled her with purpose.
“People confide in you, it’s like a friendship,” she explains “I don’t turn people away. I’m always, always taking new clients.”
When it comes to hair, Karen can do it all. She’s also a firm believer in keeping it local and supporting your own community as much as possible.
“When your kids are in hockey or bowling, it’s not going to be the big box stores that sponsor them – it’s the local businesses that step up to help people out.”
Karen says she saw the best of the community through Covid, when people stopped by her house and dropped off gift certificates to keep her going while her business was shut down.
“People here are friendly, kind, giving and supportive.”
Karen says she loves where she lives, referring to her home as being business in the front (facing houses, town) and party in the back (open fields, country view).
“My dog got loose this morning and I had three people out there helping me,” she notes. “This community is just incredible. North Dundas is a great place to live and raise a family.”