Buss hangs up her clippers after 56 years
By Lindsey Corell

For 56 years, Judy Buss has made a living by styling hair. Throughout the years, the name of her business and location has changed, but her love for the salon and conversations with clients remained the same. Buss has decided to head into retirement and shut off the curling irons one last time.

While in high school, Buss had dreams of becoming an airline stewardess and moving to Denver, Colorado after graduation. That all changed when she fell in love with her now-husband, Dick, her junior year. She knew then that she wanted to stay in Iowa to pursue another dream: to become a hairstylist. After graduating from Denver High School in May of 1963, Buss went to Pitze’s Cosmetology School in Waterloo. She started in June and graduated 10 months later in 1964.

Buss didn’t have to go far to find her first job at a salon. She was hired on at the Corner Shop Salon, which was located by Pitze’s Cosmetology School. Buss married in 1965 and she worked at the Corner Shop Salon until 1967 when she became pregnant with her son, Scott.
Around the time her son was born, an opportunity came up for Buss to buy a salon in Denver.

“I bought a salon from Jane Novick in the fall of 1967,” Buss said. “It was located next to the old City Hall and what was (at that time) The Alibi.” The salon was in the building just north of the current 101 Artiques store. She decided to purchase it as it would be closer to her home just outside of Denver. Buss named her salon Judy’s Coiffures.

Soon after buying the salon, Buss moved her business across the street.

“Needing more room, I rented the front corner space across the street in what was once Kurtt's grocery store,” Buss said.

Sterling Tops moved to town and went into the back of the old grocery store and, eventually, wanted all of the building, so, in 1974, the big green house that stood next to the Weathervane was tore down and that October she moved to 320 South State Street, which is now The Hair Loft. That same year, Buss gave birth to her second son, Jeff.

In 1980, Buss sold the business to help her husband farm. Making ends meet became a struggle, so Buss went back to work as a hairstylist. She worked in a friend’s salon in Waterloo for around five years. In 1985, Buss decided to have her own salon again. This time it would be in her basement located on 270th Street, just north of Denver. She called her salon Judy’s Kountry Kurls.

Buss made the decision to move her salon out of the basement when she started to see some of her clients have trouble going down the stairs. Buss would move her salon for the last time. In 2002, Buss built an addition on their machine shed and she would continue to style hair for 18 more years. In all her years of owning a salon, Buss has only had four employees work for her.

“I have a lot of good memories of my customers,” said Buss. “I have loved being able to hear them talk about their families. And then they became like family to me. I had a lady when I worked in Waterloo at Pitze’s who would come in every week for a shampoo set and a manicure and she would sit there and unload everything that had happened to her in that week or two weeks since she had been in and she would tell me that I was better than going to a psychiatrist. It’s been good being someone people can talk to.”

A lot of her customers became friends. The decor hung on Judy’s Kountry Kurl’s walls is a testimony to that. Two display cases hold hair clips that customers have given Buss over the years as gifts.

Buss has been open for business Monday through Friday by appointment and sometimes on Saturdays if needed. Most of her customers started coming to Buss by word-of-mouth. While the majority of the customers were from Denver, many would come from out-of-town. Customers traveled from Tripoli and Waverly to as far away as Evansdale and Iowa Falls.
Throughout her years, Buss has seen many trends come and go. At one time, roller sets were the most popular and were around for a long time. Currently, Buss has only one customer who comes to her for roller sets. A trend of the past that Buss misses styling the most are up-do’s. These days her customers ask her for highlights, color, perms and haircuts the most.
"The customer is always right," Buss said. Buss still has customers that come to her since she started in 1964. Even after death, Buss is helping her customers look their best. Buss has been asked by many former customers if she can do their hair for their funerals.

“You lose a customer when they die and they want you to do their hair for them at the funeral home,” said Buss. “I enjoy doing their hair there though because it’s the last thing that I can do for them. Makes you feel good that you can make them look nice.”

The thought of retirement hasn’t been easy for Buss.

“It’s hard to have to say goodbye,” said Buss. “But there comes a time when you have to say that’s it.”

Buss and her husband plan to sell their acreage and move into town in Denver. She plans to do some traveling and still plans on cutting hair for family members.
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