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Melissa Duke: Hair Stylist & Salon Owner

Editor’s note: This feature was written in February of 2018, right before Melissa transitioned out of ownership and work at Graffiti Salon. You can now find Melissa at her new salon, Escape Hair and Body Studio.

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For this interview, Melissa and I were joined by her husband, Jordan. Jordan and Melissa met in kindergarten, became high school sweethearts, got married and have been together for twenty-one years. That’s a beautiful love story you and your husband share, Melissa! What else can you tell us about yourself? “I was born in Elko, and I raised in Carlin. I graduated in 2000 before moving to Reno to attend cosmetology school. I graduated in 2001 and then moved to Elko with Jordan. I got my first job at Suzy’s Hair and Nails; it was a new salon in town that caught my eye. I feel like it was an excellent learning environment, not just for learning hair and trends, but the people taught me about the importance of being genuine. They were older. With them, it wasn’t all about hair or nails; it was about relationships.”

“I was able to build my clientele fairly quickly (I thought) from family and friends who had known me from growing up in Carlin. However, in 2003, my Aunt, Jan Pescio (current owner of the East End Mall) approached me about managing a salon down at the East End Mall called 5th Avenue. I immediately jumped on board and went to run 5th Avenue for about three years.”

“In 2006 Jordan and I had our first baby; we thought nothing would change that much after having a baby; we could just bring him along with us. No, everything changed! Everything changed a lot. We had a babysitter that didn’t work out, so my only option was to work on his (Jordan’s) day off from the mines. We didn’t have to rely on a sitter, but this, in turn, meant that we didn’t have any days off together, and unfortunately this wasn’t enough time to fulfill my duties as a manager. I ended up moving over to Desert Ray, which was bought from Suzy’s.”

“In 2008, we had our second son, and in 2010 we ended up with twins (boy and girl)! I cried; four kids in four years was wild.”

In 2013 the owner of Desert Ray told me she was selling the business and closing. At this time, my aunt was the owner of the East End Mall. So, I approached her asked if she had a spot to lease for a salon. It took her a while, but she finally said yes. October 2013, we opened Graffiti Salon.”

Melissa’s four children: Toren (11), Riott (9), Sevren (7), Sypress (7)

Melissa, what do you love most about being a stylist? “The guests who sit in my chair. They have great faith in me and my abilities, and we have great conversations. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and that’s how I stay passionate. I strive to be the best I can be behind the chair, so when they leave, they feel my passion in my work. My goal is to have them be confident, sophisticated, unique or any way they need to feel to express themselves. I believe we have a friendship; they push me to be a better person and a good example. I owe it to them to be a spunk in their day, a compliment when they least expect it, and an ear when they want to talk.”

It sounds like you’re loved and appreciated by many people, Melissa! Now, I (Anthony Crosby) have zero knowledge of this space, so what is it like to be in the salon culture, specifically in Elko? “When it comes to the stylists’ world in Elko, the competition is fierce! There are many, many creative, educated, and good stylists in this town. That is why I’m thankful for the loyalty of my clients because they could go anywhere, but for some reason, they choose me! In this fierce competition between stylist, it’s just a lot prettier to be nice. I don’t care to put people down; there’s somebody for everybody. Knowing the competition is fierce has up’d my game. However, if I like your hair, I’ll tell you, and I don’t even care who did it! Making the world and this community beautiful is what we’re all about, and if we can do it classy, that’s where I’d like to be.”

                                     Melissa and Husband Jordan

Melissa, what’s lies ahead for you as a stylist and business owner? “This is a hard one. It just rips my heart apart. I have made the decision; I’m currently looking for someone to take over Graffiti Salon. I just need to take a step back for myself. I’m not going to stop doing hair. I don’t know where I’ll be working. I don’t know what the future has; I know I’m looking for someone who is motivated and can continue the success as Graffiti the way I did, and I have. As of now, the salon is staying open; I’m just waiting for someone to come along and take pride and ownership of it.”

“I hope people will know that I’ve worked hard and a ton of hours behind the chair to be successful. Nothing has been given to me. I’m sure a lot of people think that (because of who my aunt is) it was given to me. No, I worked my ass off. To me, it’s just that much more gratifying knowing that I have worked for where I am. It totally hurts my heart to know my dream of Graffiti is coming to an end for me. It’s amazing, and it’s successful, it’s my second home really, but I hope that I can watch it grow with somebody who can be just as proud of it as I am. I want people to know that I value my character. I’m sensitive, I’m real, and I have a lot of love and passion helping people expressing who they are and what they want to be through their hair. Elko has given me so much self-confidence just by supporting myself and the salon, so much. I feel like I owe a huge thank you to them for helping me love my job.”

“A common thing I find myself saying to my guests is to wear it like you own it! If you put yourself  out there with confidence, you can achieve big things.”

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See you around, Elko!

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