Joe's Salon in New Milford has trained stylists, stayed abreast of changing hairstyles for 40 years

NEW MILFORD — Bangs, long hair and unusual colors are what Karen Ross, owner of Joe's Salon in New Milford, said she sees these days at her salon, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in December. 

Ross, a New Milford resident, said over the last couple of years, "color has changed more than haircuts."

"It's not unusual now for anyone of all ages to have a color that we would have thought years ago as a crazy color," Ross said, citing purple, red, green, and blue as examples. "Now they're a normal look for lots of people."

Early years

Before Joe’s Salon opened in 1982, Ross said Joe’s Barber Shop, a 200-square-foot space, was operating at 25 Bank St. for 40 years. She said she approached the shop’s owner Joe Indrisek to let him know that, if he was ever interested in retiring, she wanted to take over his space.

“He thought about it for a week, and he came back and said, ‘I’m out of here,’” Ross said of Indrisek.  “I kept the name because he had been there for what I thought was a lifetime — I just changed the name.”

When Ross first opened Joe’s Salon in New Milford 40 years ago, she said she didn’t expect she’d be in business for as long as the space’s predecessor — the former Joe’s Barber Shop.

“I never really had a goal – I never really thought about how long I would want to own the business,” Ross said. “Over the years, I was still enjoying it. Everything was in my favor to keep it open, keep it running, and there’s different challenges throughout the year but I always enjoyed it.”

Between the stylists, receptionist and bookkeeper, there’s 25 people working to keep Joe’s Salon running — several of whom received training through the salon’s training program. Ross said she had a partner, Kathy Mahon Bachelier, who helped her run the salon for 10 years.

"We are still best of friends and she is an amazing talent in our industry," Ross said.

Training program, styles

About 15 years ago, Joe’s Salon started forming relationships with a few hairdressing schools in the area such as Paul Mitchell Hair & Beauty School, TONI&GUY Hairdressing Academy (formerly known as Ricky’s) and Henry Abbott Technical High School. Today, Ross said she still works with some of them today.

Looking to hire stylists right out of school, Ross said she thought holding a salon training program at Joe’s Salon would be “the way to go for us.” She said the newly graduated stylists — whom she refers to as “associates” — come into Joe’s Salon to take part in the salon training program that’s run by some of the salon’s top stylists. 

“It’s been mostly successful, but it’s been a key to us being able to provide services,” Ross said. “We’re able to have different levels of stylists so therefore, different price points, which has been one key to our success.”

“It’s been wonderful to see them progress and to see them become a stylist that we’re so proud of,” she said, adding that almost every stylist that’s working in the salon now started as an “associate.”

As far as the most "outrageous" color requests she's received, Ross said customers have been asking for contrasts, such as going from blonde to black or vice versa.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she said a lot of women grew out their grey hair and Joe's Salon helped them transition to their natural colors. 

Otherwise, Ross said bangs are currently popular and long hair (usually anywhere between shoulder length and above the shoulders) with layers is the salon's "go-to" hairstyle; she's also been seeing a return to 70s, 80s and 90s hairstyles. 

Challenges, next steps

In terms of challenges she’s faced throughout four decades in business, Ross said, “We’ve been really lucky with having great stylists but a handful of them have gone on to open their own salons, which I appreciate. When somebody leaves here to open a place, I think that’s great. I’m so proud of the people we have had here that have gone on to have their own successful businesses but when they leave, it’s less income so you have to pay attention and shuffle around and figure out what to and hire more people.”

Considering her salon’s future in New Milford, Ross said she has no plans on leaving the business right now. Once she’s ready to step away, she said she’d love for someone at Joe’s Salon to take it on. Until then, she said she’s still enjoying being at Joe’s Salon and loves seeing the salon’s clients —many of whom have been clients for almost as long as the salon has been in business.

Proud to have a longstanding business in New Milford, Ross said, “I love hiring people, employing so many young people in this area."