A Matter of Style: A dream come true
Tracy Conn, owner of A Matter of Style Salon, styles hair for Oak Park resident Lynn Taylor, a client for more than 20 years. | Meredith Morris~for Sun-Times Media
A change in style
Tracy Conn, owner of Oak Park’s A Matter of Style American Salon and Day Spa, has seen changes in the industry over her 20-plus years of doing hair.
Among them are technological innovations that are marked improvements for the care of clients’ hair and skin.
Highlighting techniques have hifted from requiring a “rubber bathing cap-type thing” traditionally to foil wraps today.
She’s also seen the rise and fall of trends, like perms.
“In the ‘80s it was all about perms and now you hardly see them,” she said.
Change and variety are among the reasons Conn is passionate about working with hair.
“It’s never boring. If I had to do one thing all day, I’d go crazy,” she said.
Conn’s clients run the age gamut from kids to 93. Her personal favorite services to provide are special stylings for weddings and other events, kids’ cuts, and coloring.
“You can change someone instantly and they really enjoy it,” she said.
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:24PM
OAK PARK — Tracy Conn has never had a bad hair day.
Conn recently took the helm at A Matter of Style American Salon and Day Spa in Oak Park. By so doing so, she achieved her goal of owning a salon — a goal already long in the works by the time Conn graduated from Oak Park-River Forest High School in 1981.
“Working on hair was my favorite thing to do back at 14 years old,” Conn recalled. “I did friends’ hair; we’d be at a party and I’d want to do hair. I did anyone’s hair. My brothers would bring girls over and I’d want to do their hair.”
Conn, whose family moved to Oak Park when she was in fifth grade, entered Ippolito’s School of Cosmetology in the Chicago area after high school, back in the era when salon training required an internship in addition to meeting state licensing demands.
“I worked with a man who had a shop at Belmont and Central named Rocky Bellino. He was a world-renowned hair dresser and a huge inspiration,” Conn said.
After a year-long internship Conn stayed under Bellino’s guidance to enter the world of competition hair styling, traveling to attend Student Hair Olympics events and demonstrate skill in different categories that ranged “from crazy to elegant,” Conn said. Styling competition categories can include specialities such as hair color, trendy ladies’ cuts and Hollywood-inspired fantasy hair.
Competing introduced Conn to Jheri Redding and other industry luminaries. It also helped her strut her stuff.
“It’s a way to get your name around,” she said.
Conn then took a job locally at a Hair Performers salon located at North and Harlem avenues. Referring to Hair Performers as the precursor to chain salons such as the Hair Cuttery, Conn said it was novel in its day for introducing a standardized cutting method practiced at 650 salons nationwide.
“It was so new and different,” Conn said, and engaging enough to keep her on board for 13 years until the shop closed. Then Conn’s own enterprise took off.
Longtime Hair Performers clients of Conn’s, for whom she also babysat as a teenager, offered to invest in a start-up salon for Conn to manage in Oak Park, bringing her staff of 15 professionals with her to offer a full host services, from hair cuts to massage.
Oak Park residents Michael and Susan Baer opened A Matter of Style at its current site, 114 N. Marion St., 16 years ago, working with Conn to select an architect and range of amenities to launch a fully equipped business. When the Baers stepped down in December 2011, Conn became the shop’s owner. She now runs it in conjunction with family friends Dave and Arlene Wolyniec, who provide bookkeeping and other support services.
“It’s great to know what you’re going to do and then it happens. It’s kind of surreal and I love it,” Conn said.
Conn, who lives in Glen Ellyn with her husband, Larry, and their four children, has no small plans. Looking forward, she hopes to remodel A Matter of Style and keep it a good place for clients and her 30-member staff. She also hopes to increase emphasis on giving back.
“We want to be better community givers, to help some organizations that might need this kind of service,” she said, referring to social services such as those that serve cancer patients and domestic violence survivors. “It’s such a great way to help people feel better about themselves.”