Jim McFadden still chokes up when he tells the story of Jackson barber Jeri Kirkland’s funeral.
“She was a great lady,” he says of his mother-in-law. “She had a congressman be her pallbearer. She had some of the top Jackson businessmen carry her to her grave. Kings carrying their servant to her grave.”
Business would go on at Kirkland Hair Studio, thanks to McFadden, his wife Lisa Kirkland McFadden and her father Kirk Kirkland.
“When I married a barber, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Jim says.
It was a learning process. Jim used his background in manufacturing and interest in product and purchasing logistics to keep the shop organized while Lisa, a stylist herself, helped him learn what a barber stands for in a person’s life.
“How many people that you’re not intimately close to do you let touch your body,” Jim says. “Maybe a doctor and a wife. After that it only leaves your barber.”
While Jim is behind-the-scenes he is proud of his in-laws’ impact on the salon industry. Jeri was the first woman to graduate from barber school in the state of Mississippi and Kirk won national recognition for his work and was a pioneer in hair replacement services.
The Kirklands married in high school and started working together in 1969 at a shop on Lamar Street in downtown Jackson then opened their own shop in the newly built 22-story Deposit Guaranty Plaza, now owned by Regions Financial Corp.
Being raised in the industry, Lisa spent her whole life in downtown Jackson but says she is more than happy carrying on the business her mother and father started. She inherited many of her customers from her mother and some include more than one generation.
What makes Kirkland Hair Studio stand out among its area competitors is the shop’s specialization in Hollywood-based hair replacement products and services including the only virtual reality hair studio in the state.
“For anybody with hair loss its traumatizing and unsettling,” Lisa says. “I love being able to change that side of it and give them hope to see a happier ending.”
Customers have come from as far away as Dallas and Baton Rouge. “We’ve got artists not just stylists,” Jim says. “We concentrate on quality not quantity.”
For women battling cancer and going through chemotherapy treatments, they just want to look normal and often don’t want the office and friends to know that they are sick. “Its like they are losing their identity and if I can help them change that focus then they can focus on getting well,” Lisa says.
Jim said most work days at the salon go past twelve hours and there are no sick days. Sound money management has helped the studio stay afloat in a rattled economy. Jim says salons are like restaurants and many new ones fold quickly because they start out with the best equipment or facility but don’t follow it up with quality service and repeat customers.
The McFaddens moved their business across the street to One Jackson Place after their lease expired with Regions Plaza in 2012. Foot traffic had lagged in recent years after major businesses left the plaza for the suburbs and were replaced by state offices. The business has grown 20 percent since the move thanks to customers from the nearby King Edward and Marriott hotels and the McCoy Federal Building.
Stylist Melissa Bishop once cut Scott Caan’s hair when the “Hawaii Five-0” star was passing through town but didn’t recognize him at first. Southern rock group ZZ Top’s backup singers also visited once for a tanning session.
“We cut former governors, former mayors, a ton of lawyers,” Jim says. “You couldn’t stir them with a stick if you put them all in here.”