|Ardie Besse looks to retirement as a chance to learn how to relax|
|Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt|
Ardie Besse has juggled hair appointments, community involvement, family life and more with much finesse for 51 years.
But life will take on a new look as of Friday, Jan. 24, when Besse retires her scissors.
As with everything she does, Besse’s final day in business will be marked with her flair for fun and memory making.
Ruth McMurdy, Besse’s first customer in 1963, will be her last client at noon on Friday as McMurdy travels from Corpus Christi, Texas, to add an extra touch to Ardie’s last day.
Forty-six employees have worked for Ardie, and any who can are invited to be part of a picture with her at 4 p.m.
From 2-6 p.m. has been set aside for all members of the community to stop by her shop at 235 S. Campbell to enjoy refreshments and reminisce with the soon-to-be retiree.
A windfall phone call from Channel 9News out of Denver Monday, Jan. 20, left Besse breathless as they said they would be making the trip to Holyoke to cover her story Friday.
Ardie Besse is pictured with samples of her 51 years of memories as she prepares for retirement from her local beauty salon business. It is the plan that Ruth McMurdy, Besse’s first customer in 1963, will be her last customer at noon Friday, Jan. 24. The community will have a chance to join Ardie for cake and reminiscing from 2-6 p.m. Friday.
Business begins in 1963
After graduation from Holyoke High School in 1962, Ardie Peterson started school at McCook Beauty Academy in McCook, Neb., graduating in May of 1963.
A young go-getter, Ardie worked for three months for Delores McPherson in Holyoke before opening her own shop in late August of 1963 at the age of 19.
The original Ardie’s opened as a one-station shop at 142 S. Interocean Ave. That building was razed and is now part of the First Pioneer National Bank parking lot north of the bank.
Ardie’s quickly expanded to include two stations and two hair dryers. In 1970 it was remodeled inside and out as the business grew to include three shampoo units and one comb-out unit.
A few years later, Ardie started selling clothes for Edie’s of Imperial, Neb., and the original Ardie’s building was simply inadequate for the needs of the expanding shop.
Ardie and her family decided to build a new structure, and it was erected at 235 S. Campbell Ave., the store’s current location. Ardie’s Beauty Barr and Boutique moved there in May of 1976.
In 2003, Besse sold the building, closed the boutique and continued to run Ardie’s Beauty Barr with other operators.
Over her 51-year history in business, Besse employed 46 people, some short-term and others for a long time. Both Velma Wettstein and Debby Banaka worked more than 30 years at Ardie’s.
Of course one of her favorites was her mom, Frieda Peterson. After Ardie’s parents sold the Rainbow Cafe, Frieda attended McCook Beauty Academy to receive her training. She started at Ardie’s in December of 1965, working as a hairstylist for 20 years and for a number of years after that in the boutique.
“There were several times that my mother guided me into the right direction during work situations/employee situations,” said Besse. “I don’t know how I could have made it without her.”
Prices, styles and even regulations have seen extensive change in Besse’s 51-year career.
In the beginning, her prices were $2.50 for a shampoo and set and $1.75 for a haircut. While prices have certainly increased, they’ve not kept up with inflation, according to Besse’s calculations.
When Besse first started, she gave lots of permanents to young and old alike. Now many have stopped getting perms as styles have changed.
All haircuts were done with scissors in Besse’s early days of beauty school. Razor cuts were added about halfway through school, and when she started in business, Ardie said, she did more razor than scissor cuts.
Coloring has changed, as well, said Besse, as the service has moved from frosting caps to foiling.
In her early years of hairdressing, Besse said, it was against the law to cut men’s hair in a licensed beauty shop unless one had a barber license.
Hairstylist regulations disallowed open-toe shoes and required that socks be worn. Besse said all hairdressers wore uniforms when she first started.
Surprise inspections from the state department were conducted every year. Besse said she knew it was an inspector when a lady walked in dressed in a suit, wearing a hat, carrying a clipboard and sporting a nice handbag.
Inspectors were looking to make sure there was no hair in the sinks, floors were clean, sterilizers were in place, rollers were free of hair, operator licenses were posted, bathrooms were spotless and more.
Besse said shops had a second chance to remedy their citations, but ultimately, the inspectors could shut them down.
Adding fun to the day-to-day routine is something Besse does naturally.
She said recently, “I have a little bit of my mom in me. I like to clown it up and have fun.”
A long-standing tradition at Ardie’s, starting in the early 1970s, was to dress up for Halloween—not just Ardie, but the whole staff.
Once her crew dressed as clowns, went into a local bank with their sacks and said it was a stick-up, not realizing that bank examiners were there. Oops!
During the time of cattle mutilations, Besse remembers dressing as aliens. This was at her former location on Interocean Avenue. The store had a shop ledge out front, and she recalls her green alien self sitting in the ledge.
A man walked by one way and stared and stared. He turned around and came back and stared again at her. The next time, she winked at him and he didn’t return. She still shares a good laugh when telling that story.
Besse organized men’s night at holiday time, and clothes from her boutique were modeled in a style show to help the attendees select gifts for their wives or friends.
She used her expertise in this field to organize style shows for various organizations.
One of her biggest ventures was organizing Holyoke’s Centennial Style Show in 1988. It included clothes from all eras, models of all ages, some featured clothes lent by the museum, music from each time period and even entertainment such as a Charleston routine from the 1920s.
Twenty-five years later, she served as an organizer for Holyoke’s quasquicentennial celebration this past June and even wore her early-day hairdresser uniform on her float in the parade.
Always quick to lend a community hand to help with programs such as this, Besse has become well-known for her Lily May show. Lily May stars specifically at events of the Melissa Memorial Hospital Foundation, on which Besse serves as a member.
Lily May has provided much laughter and, according to Besse, has one more go-around. Last time she appeared, Lily May made jokes about getting old and said she was going to find the fountain of youth.
Only Besse knows what surprise Lily May will bring to the MMHF Legacy of Thanks this spring.
Recognizing something new was needed for the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas opening night, Besse organized the first Parade of Lights. That event just keeps getting bigger and was a huge success last month at the Chamber’s Country Christmas.
Besse was the first to sign up for the Chamber’s Homecoming band back in the 1980s when she donned her high school twirling outfit and spun her baton down main street.
She enjoyed teaching dance classes—basic dance and line dancing—and choreographed the school musicals for about 10 years when Clark Ginapp served as director.
Besse’s community involvement was never-ending. She taught Sunday school at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Amherst.
For about 10 years she served on the Phillips County Fair Board. Besse was an assistant 4-H leader for the Amherst 4-H club and served on the Fair Queen committee as well. She donated belt buckles for the Phillips County fair queens for more than 25 years.
The Montana Silversmiths jewelry dealership that Besse continued to maintain after she closed her boutique has now been taken over by Jake’s Feed in Holyoke in anticipation of Besse’s retirement.
Her 19 standing appointment gals have been encouraged by Besse to go different places, and she’s appreciative of the local hairstylists who are taking care of her customers.
It’s been an emotional time the past few weeks as her standings have their “last” with Ardie.
“I will really miss taking care of my special ladies and making them feel and look pretty,” Besse admitted. “That smile on their face when I get done fixing their hair is worth millions,” she added.
“I just knew I was ready—both mentally and physically,” said Besse of her upcoming retirement. She said she wasn’t ready five years ago, but she is now.
Reminiscing on her career, Besse recalls a low time one year after she took the big bite to build a new building.
She fell while roller skating and broke five bones (two in her arm and three in her ankle) and dislocated her leg. She was in the hospital for two weeks and used a wheelchair for a couple of months.
The accident happened the first part of April, and Besse wasn’t even able to walk on crutches until July, while she worried constantly about losing her shop.
It was a big moment in her life, and her employees and family helped out in a huge way. But Besse said she still struggles from the after-effects of her injuries. If it weren’t for that accident, she would probably still work a few more years, she said.
On the lighter side, Besse is looking forward to attending grandkids’ activities.
Children and grandchildren include Brent and Tina Vieselmeyer and sons Austin and Alex in Amherst, Charla Leighton and daughters Sierra and Sidney in Loveland, Derrick and Stacey Besse and daughter Taryn in Delaware, and Bridgette Kaslon and sons Kaleb and Garrett in St. Paul, Neb.
Besse said she also hopes to spend more time learning her husband Fred Besse’s trucking business and helping him. She might even go with him once in a while.
Her store always had flowers blooming in the front yard, and she looks forward to spending lots of time in her yard at home. Her first plan is to redo a flower bed for a memorial garden for her brother Don in her backyard.
She’ll continue to work a couple of nights a week at Cobblestone Lounge to help transition to retirement. And she said she plans to exercise and get into shape.
One thing Besse is most looking forward to is being able to sit outside in the mornings and have breakfast or coffee on the deck and patio and just sit back and relax. Maybe she’ll do some reading too.
She said she’s had the nice things in life, but this is much different and she’s going to love it. She is extremely appreciative of those who have been a part of her life.
Admitting she doesn’t even know how to relax, Besse will be on a learning curve for a while. “But I am going to learn,” she pledges, adding that she’s looking forward to it very much.
Holyoke Enterprise January 23, 2014