For nine years, Cordovans have visited Shags Hair Studio. April Horton, the salon’s proprietor and sole stylist, is known not just for her precise handling of scissors and clippers, but for her abundant banter: often mischievous, always bracingly candid, and guaranteed to keep customers from looking at their watches.
Before 2011, Horton worked in Juneau, a city with faster-paced, and more crowded, salons.
“You had five other girls that you were working around, and you had to fight for the shampoo bowls,” Horton said. “It sometimes could be chaos. You just didn’t have that alone time with your client… Here, I love the camaraderie that you get with your clients and the building of relationships. You’re not, ‘Hurry up, rush, rush, get ‘em out the door!’ You actually get to take the time that you need with them, to build those relationships and the trust.”
In 2016, Shags moved from the building now occupied by Ace Hardware to its current location on First Street. The move to a high-profile location with a large, street-facing window gave the salon a significant boost in business, Horton said. Now, Horton is planning another move: from Cordova to Maricopa, Ariz., where she plans to hang up her clippers for good. Shags Hair Studio’s final day of business in Cordova — or anywhere — will be Aug. 29.
Arizona will offer Horton a change of pace, an escape from Alaska’s high cost of living and a chance to be closer to family. Horton will miss the friends she’s made over the past nine years, and doesn’t expect Maricopa’s seafood to match Cordova’s. Nonetheless, she doesn’t doubt her decision.
“Change is always good, and it’s what you make of it,” Horton said. “To be there for family… that’s really where it’s at, to be there right when they need us, instead of having to wait and figure out how we’re going to fly down and get back.”
Thanks to the already stringent sanitation measures standard among hairdressers, adjusting the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been too challenging for Horton. However, it has made the moving process more complicated: April Horton and her husband Ron plan to drive two trucks packed with kitchen appliances, photos and other essential belongings through Canada, which has required copious paperwork. Canadian anti-coronavirus measures also mean that Horton and her husband will have to sleep in their vehicles and bring most of their own food.
Horton hopes to return to Cordova in the spring for a fishing holiday, she said. Another hairdresser is also in talks to take over the venue when Horton leaves.
“I’ve done it all,” Horton said. “I jumped in, both feet, and It’s been very rewarding. I’ve built some amazing friendships, and I will miss those, and all the support and love this town has shown me. But I’m excited, because I can’t do any more than what I’ve already done. I’ve done it all.”