PITTSBURG — When Brian Hendrickson first peeked inside what had been Beasley Tire, an historical building on the southeast corner of Ninth and Broadway in Downtown Pittsburg, it looked about as far removed from a beauty salon as anything could be.

That was 2002, when his wife, Kelli, was pregnant with their second daughter, Ella — a full seven years before the City of Pittsburg completed a $3 million downtown streetscape project, and long before anyone could imagine the downtown being a destination, let alone a thriving one.

“I could see the potential in the shop and in the town,” Brian recalled. “But this far surpasses anything I could have envisioned.”

Today, Brian, Kelli, their daughters, and Brian’s mother, Nancy, own and operate the vibrant Salon 9 that pulls clients in from as far away as Tulsa and Kansas City.

“We feel like we’re playing a bit of a role in the economy of our community, because when they come here for an appointment, they stay and make a day of it by visiting boutiques, going to events at PSU, eating at local restaurants, that sort of thing,” Brian said. “And those clients are ones who come here every four weeks.”

But there’s another, more personal reason Brian is glad he and his family took the leap to invest their own business 17 years ago.

“We have three generations working here, side by side, and I can’t imagine anything better, anything that’s more fulfilling,” he said.

Brian grew up in Pittsburg and attended Pittsburg High School, where he showed talent in hair and makeup and was recruited by a teacher to help backstage with school plays. Like other local youth, he considered moving on after graduating in 1987. But only briefly.

Feeling the pull to turn his talents into a career, he earned a certificate at Ft. Scott Community College’s Pittsburg School of Cosmetology, 831 N. Broadway — right across the street from Beasley’s little brick tire shop.

He and his mother, who also attended the school, operated a salon out of her home for a few years — he doing hair, and her doing nails — and saw that they had a good working relationship.

“It was a natural partnership,” Brian said. “Opening a larger shop just seemed like the right thing to do.”

The business has evolved; in the early days, it included decor by Judy Dugan Spigarelli and a gym, Phase 1 Fitness, by Kaley Zafuta, in the back.

Today, it is a full-service salon that sees a steady stream of customers and employs nine.

Among them: Isabel, Ella’s older sister.

“She started coming here when she was little,” recalled Nancy of her granddaughter. “She’d stand behind me and watch me do nails, or sit on my lap and watch. She’s grown up here.”

Like her dad, Isabel found an outlet for her talents early in life: She did makeup and hair for members of The Dance Pitt before their competitions.

“Dad made me up a kit of my own,” she said.

Isabel graduated from PHS in May 2018, then completed her certificate at Ft. Scott Community College in December, following in her dad’s and grandma’s footsteps.

She joined the salon full time in January as a stylist and nail technician. One Saturday in April found her doing makeup for 18 Pittsburg High School students headed to their prom. Other days, she’s serving second and third generation clients.

“I couldn’t be more proud to work here,” Isabel said. “It’s part of who I am.”

And when Brian decides to hang up his shears, she said she likely will be the one to keep it going.

“I can see myself running it,” Isabel said of Salon 9. “I couldn’t let anyone else. It’s part of the fabric of our family.”

Kelli, a teacher for the SEK Interlocal at George Nettels Elementary, is the salon’s business manager, doing all of the bookwork.

Ella, now 16, is the salon’s go-fer, doing errands and assisting where help is needed.

Nancy lives across the street with Brian’s sister, Carrie, who has special needs.

“Being in this location has given Carrie so much independence,” Brian said. “She can walk to the salon and doesn’t need transportation, and she can be a part of things. It’s given her a new lease on life.”

“We’re a big family unit, and that includes our clients,” Brian said. “We’re all cross-trained and know each of them, and I think there’s a comfort in that among all of us.”

“My motto has always been ‘Do what you love, and love what you do.’ I couldn’t be more blessed to have been able to achieve that here, in my hometown, with my family, in a business we built.”

Brian recalls watching his parents’ generation improve the Pittsburg community, and now is thrilled to see that improvement go to the next level.

“It’s exciting to be part of it — the reinvention of our downtown,” he said. “I’m proud to be here. I wouldn’t trade raising our kids here, or being a part of this progressive movement Pittsburg is experiencing, for anything. I’m glad I stayed.”

— Andra Bryan Stefanoni and Brett Dalton are lifelong local residents who take photographs of and write freelance stories about the community, its businesses, and its people. They can be reached at andra.stefanoni@gmail.com and bcharlesdalton@gmail.com