The roots of those who take care of roots

Illustration by Diana Ortega

Flagstaff is a city with deep-rooted history, culture and community. The town has plenty of attractions and places to see, provided one is willing to do some digging. Some might notice the local businesses that take care of roots on a daily basis. Not plant roots, but hair roots.

One of these businesses is Val’s Workshop on San Francisco Street. Owner Alberto Valenzuela has been cutting hair for 35 years but has only owned his current workspace for two.

“My dad is a restaurant guy,” Valenzuela said. “He had a couple [of] different restaurants, but I did not want to follow in his footsteps. He told me to go into the military. I listened to him and went down to take the test, and the hair cutting school was right next door. My dad was happy because at least I was doing something instead of living off his dime.”

Having been in the business for so long, Valenzuela said he immensely enjoys his work. While his initial clientele were primarily women, he eventually taught himself how to do men’s hair.

“I did women’s high-end hair for about 25 years,” Valenzuela said. “They started bringing in their boyfriends and husbands, and that’s when I started doing men’s hair. It’s less stress and I just had a good time doing it.”

Valenzuela is not the only hairstylist in Flagstaff who enjoys their job. General manager of HeadSpace Southside Salon, Caity Summers, and owner Vanessa Villaverde take pride in the work they do and their place in the city.

Before Summers paired with Villaverde, she worked in the retail industry for 10 years. When the salon opened, she operated as its general manager, which she still does while also learning how to style hair.

“When [HeadSpace Southside Salon] was opening, the building needed an entirely new plumbing system,” Summers said. “The building is over 100 years old so the first thing [to do] was that, which cost a lot of money. Working on the foundation of the building was a big struggle. We found ways to make income by offering hair cuts and colorings at a set price, and the community pitched in to help us.”

This salon is no stranger to operating within the community. During the six years it has been open, employees have cemented themselves in Flagstaff with a customer base that keeps coming back for more.

“One of the big pros about this is the community,” Summers said. “You get to know a lot of people who keep coming back and you’re also constantly learning. There is a big time investment, and Vanessa and I typically work 10-hour days. However, because we are an independent business, there is a freedom of self-scheduling.”

As Summers said, learning is a constant part of the job. Angela Ortiz, owner of Beyond the Basics Hair Salon, is no exception to this. In her 25 years of doing hair and 15 years of owning her own business, she is taking more steps toward community involvement.

In a similar way that HeadSpace Southside Salon has its loyal customer base, Beyond the Basics has a loyal customer base of its own with one big difference — Ortiz and her family make their customers a part of their family.

“We have had most of our customers for a long time,” Ortiz said. “Most of them have been the same for most of the time I have done hair. To see them come back all the time, they get to be your family.”

Regardless of where one goes to get their hair done, Flagstaff is home to many salons and barbers whose goal is to make their customers feel good about themselves. Between the services offered and the price ranges each business has, finding the next place to get a haircut is readily available in town.