AT TRUVY’S Beauty Spot in “Steel Magnolias,” kinship forms among the stylists and their clients while hair color processes and dries under the blower. The laughter and free therapy leave hearts lighter and hair brighter, and age and circumstances are no barrier. Truvy, Ouiser, Clairee, M’Lynn, Shelby, and Annelle forge an undergirding bond as they lean on each other through life’s most challenging days.
The movie captivated Karmen Allen. Although she knew nothing about styling hair, she knew what she wanted to do in life after watching the movie.
Brian Gulley was a Motlow State Community College business student when his sister started
cosmetology school. Gulley’s interest in the business grew as his sister talked about all she was learning. After graduating from Motlow, he completed his beauty school training at the Fayetteville Beauty School of Cosmetology and became a sales rep for Tressa, a major beauty product manufacturer. Tressa sent him for training in Cincinnati, and he traveled the country as an in-salon instructor for their product line.
Gulley said, “[After that], I worked for a couple of shops and was a partner in another before I met up with Karmen. Once I started teaching [at Fayetteville High School], I decided I didn’t need partners because I couldn’t be there. I just needed to be in a shop working with someone, so I went to Shear Frenzy.”
Allen worked alone in her shop for years, but losing her lease twice to the sale of the building forced her to consider other options.
“I thought, ‘I’ll just do booth rental,’ and the reason I chose to go to Shear Frenzy was because I knew Brian was there. I knew I’d have at least one friend there because I’d never worked with other hairdressers,” said Allen.
Shear Frenzy’s owner, Faron Campbell, passed away, and her son, Jacob Campbell, took over the shop. Allen and Gulley continued their work there, but when Jacob also passed away, it was time for them to consider their future.
“We loved it at Shear Frenzy, but we had a couple of hard losses. We needed to make our own memories — memories for us. We wanted to have more peace and not so much sadness looking around and seeing the loss we had at Shear Frenzy,” Allen said.
Allen and Gulley’s friendship was strong, and while they studied their next steps, an ideal location for a salon opened. They decided to draw on their compatibility and make new memories as partners.
“The shop we’re in now kind of fell in our lap. We weren’t looking, so it was meant to be. We took the first three letters of his name and the last three of mine, Brian and Karmen, and came up with Brimen’s Hair Studio,” said Allen.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, Allen is behind the chair each day, and Gulley is there Thursday through Saturday during the school year and for the summer. He’s the founder and instructor of the cosmetology program at Fayetteville High School. With seven classes a day, Monday through Friday, Gulley said it’s the largest program in the school’s vocational program.
He was a Fox54 Top Teacher last October and is passionate about the importance of relationships with the students.
“It’s a good feeling knowing you’ve helped young people find their direction and what they want to do in life — encourage and make those connections with them. Young people need encouragement today, probably more than ever, because it’s a different world out there,” said Gulley.
While Gulley is busy training tomorrow’s cosmetologists, Allen misses her partner.
“I watch the clock on Thursdays around three, waiting on Brian to get there because it’s good to have him there,” said Allen. “We have the same personality, sense of humor, and work ethic and get along so well. In this industry, it’s hard to get along with somebody the way you need to in order to stay together. We’re so much alike.”
So much alike that remodeling the shop was a piece of cake, even during the supply shortages and restraints of the pandemic. Brimen’s opened on June 10, 2021, and clients recognize the pair’s seamless handprint upon the shop’s look and feel, affirming their shared passions and personalities. It’s easy to see today that Allen has come full circle, back to Truvy and “Steel Magnolias.”
“I love my people,” she said. “I love how they might be in a bad or sad mood, and we can just talk and laugh and forget about the outside world while they’re in the chair. Maybe I made them feel better for the rest of the day. I believe everybody deserves to have their hair done and feel good about themselves. Then, in return, they make me feel good. They lift me up, pray for me, and appreciate me.”
Unsurprisingly, Gulley agrees. “It’s the lifelong connections you make in the community. All these years, you’ve done (their hair), and then you’re doing their children’s (hair), and you’ve done their grandchildren’s (hair). These people become more than clients; they become friends and family.” At Brimen’s, you’re not just a name on an appointment book.
“We always want the people that come to see us to know they’re just not people; they are important. When you come to see us, we’re going to treat you like you want to be treated. You’re not just a number; you’re a client of ours,” said Allen. “We want you to feel that connection. When you come to our salon, you’re going to get the same treatment every time.”
You’ll find laughter, free therapy, and bonds of friendship for life’s most challenging days at Brimen’s Hair Studio. You’ll leave with hearts lighter and colors brighter. Rinse and repeat. It’s a beauty regimen that pays out more than it costs. GN