INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Ser-en-dip-i-ty — noun, an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
Apart from being the name of her salon, serendipity seems to also be a thread in Kathi Clark’s story. The twists, turns and travels of the hairstylist’s life and career have led her to a successful business, a colorful life, and finally, a place to call home.
“My life’s been pretty magical,” Kathi said.
It was in Elko, Nev., at the age of 18 that Kathi was told she would not be supported through college. She wanted to study to become a psychologist but her parents had other ideas.
“My mother insisted I go to beauty school,” Kathi said. “Girls only needed a short term job because you went to college to get married.”
Although she took her parents’ advice, it was only a few years after cutting hair that she decided to get out and see the world.
“A girlfriend and I jumped in a car and drove to Alaska because we wanted to,” Kathi said. “My parents thought it was terrible; traveling the world was not something they thought was acceptable.”
Kathi defines serendipity as “a good place to go and find an unlooked-for happy experience.”
She thinks it applies well to her salon, as clients find new services they weren’t expecting, and also to her second passion: traveling. Some of the places she has visited include Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Brazil and Italy.
“I love to travel,” Kathi said. “It’s scary but you do meet people along the way. Things would work out. I’d run into things that were opportunistic for me.”
Like the time, when visiting London’s House of L’Oreal, she happened upon a hair show with hair stylist legend Vidal Sassoon, and took classes under him.
Or the time 40 years ago when she came across an open retail space at the Cal Neva, perfect for a salon. Opportunistic, fortuitous, serendipitous.
Looking back, the redhead sees that being a hairstylist has been serendipitous for her, as her dream of helping people is still realized.
“I did a lot of therapists’ hair and they said it was better to go talk to your hair stylist than a therapist,” Kathi said. “It’s less expensive, it’s hands on therapy, you can tell them all your stuff and you leave looking good.”
Most of her clients are long-standing and have been coming to Kathi for years for her services, and her friendship.
“People always know what I’m talking about when I say, ‘Serendipity,’” said longtime client Gayle Ross.
Apart from attending some the world’s biggest parties such as Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Oktoberfest in Germany, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Kathi traveled the country as a competitive hairstylist.
“I was young and really aggressive,” Kathi said. “At one point I wanted to be on the US hair styling Olympic team.”
During that time, the world-traveled Elko native was ranked fifth nationally for her skill. And although her competition days are over, Kathi insists on keeping up with the latest trends.
“One of the things I’ve done is stay up and educate myself in what’s happening in hair and beauty business,” Kathi said. “I believe knowing the latest stuff keeps you in business.”
Kathi opened Serendipity at the lake in 1973, and at one time had four other salons in Reno, heading 54 employees. After 20 years, Kathi said she “needed to slow down.”
“I’m a firm believer in whatever you do you need to take time to get out of your normalcy and get away,” Kathi said.
Her latest trips have been to Key West, Florida and Austin, Texas.
“Take that time, even if you don’t have the money, otherwise your body is going to give it to you,” she said.
When fantasizing about the housing prices in Texas, Kathi admits to “falling in love with every place I go to.”
“I think, ‘oh I could move there,’” she said. “Then I come home; I have a beautiful view and my morning coffee with my Lake Tahoe and come home at night and have my glass of wine with my lake Tahoe.
“Where else could you see such beauty?”
“I’m a firm believer in whatever you do, you need to take time to get out of your normalcy and get away.”
Owner, Serendipity Hair Salon