TAHOE CITY, Calif. - Stepping into Debra Schroepfer's salon, Beach Comber Salon in Tahoe City, is a lot like stepping away from Tahoe and onto the beach.Originally from Southern California, Schroepfer aimed to make her hair salon as comfortable as possible, while still reminding her of a place she loves - the beach. Complete with a surfboard, waterfall, plants and island decor, getting your hair cut at Beach Comber will not only leave your hair refreshed, but have you leaving refreshed as well.Schroepfer has been a professional hair stylist for 40 years, ever since graduating in 1972 from cosmetology school, where she earned a scholarship to attend."My mom encouraged me to go to beauty school," she said. "I put her hair in a French twist at 12 years old."Since she was 16, Schroepfer knew styling hair was for her. She moved to Tahoe to ski in December 1979, only anticipating to stay for the winter, but has remained in the basin ever since, she said."I opened Beach Comber in February 1981, in Incline Village," Schroepfer explained. While she worked in Incline Village, she lived near Tahoe City, and eventually, in 2007, moved the business to Dollar Hill, a move that brought her closer to her own home, as well as her three daughter's school.Even though she's moved 15 miles away to the other side of the lake, Schroepfer added that much of her clientele has followed her to her new location.Offering hair cuts, washes, color and styles to both men and women, Schroepfer says she thinks of her clients more as friends than anything else. She works with locals as well as visitors who are in the area for just the summer, as well as second-home owners."I love coming to work because I love people," she added.The small salon, just two rooms with one cutting chair and one washing station, allows clients to make themselves at home and relax - or vent - with Schroepfer."People love coming here because it's just me and them," she added.Beach Comber's relaxing atmosphere gives clients the chance to step away from their busy lives, even if just for half an hour, and chat with Schroepfer."This is my outlet," Schroepfer said of her time in the salon. "My clients become friends. We do hair then go out to lunch."Schroepfer stays busy outside of the salon as well, spending time volunteering with the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue squad. In fact, just a few days ago, she spent her night cooking dinner for all 80 members of the squad."Cooking is therapeutic, just like cutting hair," she added.The Beach Comber is open by appointment only, and no appointments are made more than a week ahead of time, Schroepfer explained. That way, there is room for changes if anything comes up, such as an illness, or a child's important game.After 31 years, Schroepfer says the cool and calm atmosphere of her salon, along with her professional work, has kept her successful in Tahoe.And Tahoe has noticed. Just last month, Schroepfer took home top honors in the Best Hair Stylist of the Sierra Sun's and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza's annual "Best Of North Tahoe & Truckee" contest. Schroepfer's 26 nominations led to an easy win, with the runners-up receiving 16 and 15 votes, respectively.
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