Visitors to A Cut Above are greeted with a buzz of activity: the mechanical hum of a razor, the snipping of scissors slicing through hair, and the voices of the hair stylists talking over it all.
Kameon Smith opened A Cut Above, 124 Cottage Ave., in Cashmere, in 1990 but cutting hair wasn’t always what she had in mind for a career.
“I finished college and I decided that I didn’t want to teach so I went to beauty school,” Smith said. “I bought this building and put this shop in here. I knew what I wanted to wear and I couldn’t do that in the classroom or where I worked before.”
A Cut Above is a full-service salon with offerings ranging from haircare, to nailcare, to skincare, to much more.
Smith said she enjoyed running her own business because of “the creativity, the friendships, the people I’ve met, the gals I get to work with, and being able to make it to all of kids’ activities,” as well as the people in the Cashmere community.
“The people here have made it great. They made it seem like there weren’t very many challenges,” Smith said. “At first it was hard to attract clientele. I was open from 9 to 9 at first because I figured if I was here the entire day, eventually I’d get clientele to keep me busy.”
The long hours at the start took a toll on Smith.
“Sometimes I would stay here so late and for so long that I would keep a blanket in the back closet,” Smith said. “I would sleep in the back shampoo bowl and when the bell would ring, I would jump up and toss the blanket in the office and start cutting hair.”
Fortunately for the business, people didn’t wait long before finding their way through the doors of A Cut Above.
“Back when people used phone books, I wanted to be first in the phone book and first under beauty as well,” Smith said. “I got the number 782-8888 so that no one could ever forget it. That brought people in. Service, smiles, and consistent service brought them back.”
“Going the extra mile,” stylist and manicurist Heather Collins said. “We’ll walk down and get them a coffee if they’d like, or we’ll offer them lunch. You’ll never see (Smith) eat a sandwich without offering them half.”
Smith likes to support local businesses in the area to pay forward the success she’s enjoyed in the community. Young customers are given a dollar to spend at the local bakery.
“We try to support local business as much as we can,” Smith said. “Whenever we have an issue, we go to nearby places first.”
The local support also translates to support of local high school athletics.
“Even though none of our kids play basketball anymore, we still support the high school team,” Smith said. “If they’re going to state, we’ll paint ‘on to state,’ on our windows to show our support.”
The success of the business has allowed Smith to support her family while doing what she loves — a rare opportunity.
“I raised my three kids and I always just hope that it’s enough,” Smith said. “I’m so grateful that so far it has been. I’ve been blessed that this provided for us as well as it has through the years.”
The customers that Smith sees coming through her door can vary wildly, from babies, who receive their first haircut for free, onward.
“First cuts to deathbed,” Smith said. “We’ll go to the funeral home and take care of them there if that’s asked of us. Usually we have relationships with that client and it can be nice to give that gift to the family. We’ll do their makeup as well.”
The customers that Smith serves seem to love her company almost as much as the haircut itself.
“I’ve been coming here since before I can remember,” Nick Morrison said while getting his hair cut by Smith. “I know what I’m going to get what I come here, and I love Kameon. I’ve known her since I was really, really young.”
“She’s outgoing, she’s fun. It’s fun to come here and socialize with her,” added Tyler McCallum while waiting for his turn in the chair.
“Sometimes they’ll come by just to hang out,” Smith laughed.
Smith’s social nature isn’t just an appealing personality trait — it has been part of her business model since day one.
“We’ve all walked in salons where you don’t feel welcome or maybe it feels a little snooty or too edgy,” Smith said. “I never wanted any of that here. I wanted every customer who walked through that door to feel welcome. There aren’t any public restrooms here in town and I tell nearby business that they can send people here. I don’t care if they’re just coming in here to use the bathroom, I’m going to treat them the same way as if they were a paying customer. And you always have to answer the phone with a smile, because they can tell.”
Her welcoming philosophy is one that is echoed by her staff. The other stylists also benefit from her experience working in the beauty industry.
“When I first started, there were days when I would have one haircut in eight hours,” Collins said. “Kameon told me to be reading style magazines, keeping up to date, ask her questions during a haircut and use your time wisely. It can be a scary thing to get out of beauty school with no advisers looking over your shoulder, it’s all on you. Kameon is always there so that we can ask her questions.”
Having that experience can be important in an ever-shifting business.
“It’s huge to work as a team,” Smith said. “It’s always changing. Fashion colors have been changing: the pinks, the purples, and the blues. We had a color class in here the other day with an instructor. We’re always learning and trying to be up-to-date so we can keep the youngsters happy.”