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Iowa City salon fuses tradition with innovation

BY GIRINDRA SELLECK | JUNE 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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Each week, the Daily Iowan staff will feature a local business.

With scissors and shears, an Iowa City hair salon is striving to give its guests confidence and a heightened sense of community, one haircut at a time.

"We strive to give everybody a place where they feel confident and relaxed," said Bobby Thompson, who founded Thompson & Co. Salon Parlor with wife Kayla in April.

This approach is evident in talking to Thompson, who uses the term "guest" instead of "customer" to describe his business' patrons.

The business motto, "community, culture, couture" only adds to this.

"We want people to come and feel like they're part of the family; we don't want to be just somewhere where they're coming to get their hair done," Kayla Thompson said.

Although Thompson & Co. might be new to Iowa City's business scene, the husband and wife team brings a veteran air of experience to the area.

"I went to school at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis, but then I moved back to Iowa City to be closer to family and friends," Kayla Thompson said. "Then I worked at an Aveda Salon for the last six, seven years before opening Thompson & Co."

Bobby Thompson, an ex-personal trainer, is a strong man with a firm handshake and the physique of a bodybuilder, so it might surprise some to see him with shears and comb in hand.

However, he believes the two professions are closely linked.

"I loved seeing someone come in and want to change and being able to help them make that change," he said.

After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2007 with a degree in health promotion, his career took an unexpected turn when he began working at a friend's father's salon in Coralville.

"It was the time of the economic crisis, right around 2008, and I just couldn't think of a reason not to," he said.

This decision led him to study at Iowa City's La James International College while also traveling around the United States, training, learning new techniques, and different styles.

"This industry is a fashion industry," he said. "So it's always changing, and you need to know both the trends and old-school background."

The Thompsons agree this fusion is also what sets Thompson & Co apart from the competition.

"We build haircuts to fit your head," Bobby Thompson said, "It's an individualized cut each time."
The salon employs newer, artisan techniques such as hair painting alongside classic barbering techniques such as shear over comb and French cutting.

"Our goal is to make haircuts that will look as good three or four weeks after getting the cut as they did the first day," Bobby Thompson said.

It seems their personal approach is working.

After her former hair stylist retired, salon guest Pam Johnson transitioned to Thompson & Co. after her son's recommendation.

"He's my go-to guy," she said. "And I live in Cedar Rapids."

This referral-based method of attracting people seems to speak to the success of the company's community-centric business model.

"We want people, whether they're guests, owners, or employees, to feel like they're part of our family," Bobby Thompson said.


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