A solo motorcycle trip through the U.S. and a journey to South America was just what Cindylou Douglas needed to open her own hair salon. After visiting countless U.S. cities and an impoverished community in Peru, Douglas felt the necessity to improve her hometown. So, upon her return to Knoxville, she set her sights on opening a salon in her favorite area of Knoxville—a section of North Central Street, between Oklahoma and West Anderson Avenues, otherwise known as “Happy Holler.”
“I grew up here. My heart is here and I want to see this area grow—I want to be a part of the chain effect,” Douglas says. She hopes the neighborhood where she spent her high school years hanging out and where friends have started small businesses in the past couple of years, like Hollis Church’s Glowing Body yoga studio, will continue to blossom, and that the addition of her salon will give the area another boost.
Douglas had been working at the upscale Salon Azure on Kingston Pike for seven years when she began feeling run-down, so she hopped on her motorcycle and traveled extensively around the U.S. She visited many of the country’s national parks, then journeyed to Peru, visiting the largest lake in South America—Lake Titicaca—and hiking through the Amazon. During her travels she encountered a community devastated by a landslide and witnessed how the indigenous people collaborated to restore their home. The inspiration she felt encouraged her return to Knoxville and begin plotting her way to help rebuild her own community.
An old building next door to Veg-O-Rama is where she chose to begin. Douglas describes her work ethic after she returned from her travels as “24 hours all the time.” She transformed the abandoned building into a functioning hair salon in less than two months. “I’m a total workaholic. If I’m not here, I’m thinking about here,” she says.
Her biggest struggle is learning how to be a boss. “There’s so many sacrifices everywhere. At my old job it could just be about me and now it’s about everything. It’s a lot to take in,” she says.
She opened on Sept. 28 and has since seen her own steady flow of clientele, including many former customers from Salon Azure who followed her to her new location.
Amelia Davis is such a customer and is happy to see Douglas in a new location. “It’s laid-back. It’s comfortable. It’s friendly. It’s very warm and welcoming,” she says. She describes Douglas and her employees as being more flexible with clients than at other, more established salons. “At those places, it can be a grueling process,” she says. “I’m going to follow Cindylou wherever she goes. If something happened and she was somewhere else, I’d follow her there.”
Douglas considers herself “rock ’n’ roll on the outside but a hippie on the inside.” The rocker look may come from the tattoos she’s gotten annually since she was 17. She’s also built a stage in the salon equipped with a guitar and, according to Douglas, many more instruments will be added soon. “I love the stage. It’s my favorite part of the salon,” she says. She offers customers discounts for getting onstage and performing. “The music and the art, it lightens people’s souls,” says Douglas.
As for the hippie, she is a strong believer in good energy and refuses to keep gossip magazines in her salon, which is also purposely void of the typical glamour posters of skinny models with overdone hairstyles—she prefers a painting of a guitar done by her 6-year-old niece and painted glass created by an employee. She also partners with Aveda so all the products she uses in her salon are naturally derived from organic ingredients and packaged in recycled materials.
Although she gained her cosmetology license from the Tennessee School of Beauty, she feels she gained an important part of her education through her work with Aveda. She is an Aveda color educator and is trained in “color theory” which involves combining ingredients to make shades of makeup that are 97 to 99 percent all-natural.
She sees her work with Aveda as a way of “giving back to the Earth.” Her business mantra summarizes her holistic goals for Happy Holler: “We are just doing our part to make the community beautiful, one head at a time.” m