Mary Ann Trudeau trims, curls, dyes and styles. That's her business.
And business is good -- so good in fact, that she recently celebrated the landmark 50th anniversary of Mary Ann's Beauty Shop.
"My shop was packed the first day I opened it," said Trudeau, who built the beauty shop in the front yard of her Williams Street home five years ago. "We're full all the time."
The beauty shop is open for styling Thursday through Saturday. But Trudeau said she steps up whenever she's needed.
On a typical day, roller-haired ladies relax beneath the dryers while Trudeau and her fellow stylist, Vickie Keith, scurry about catering to the remaining room full of chattering ladies and the occasional man in for a quick trim.
"She does my hair so good," said Ivanelle Duffey, who has had a standing Friday morning appointment since the beauty shop opened. "I look forward to coming here every Friday."
Duffey is only one of many loyal clients who have patronized the small salon since the then 18-year-old stylist opened March 19, 1960.
Trudeau said her clients often include two, three and even four generations of the same family.
Heidi Tucker said she tagged along to the beauty shop with her mother and grandmother.
"I remember coming here when I was little," said Tucker, who recently cozied up in a salon chair for some touch-up color.
Many people say they trust their hairdresser more than anyone else. It is never more true than at Mary Ann's.
Trudeau believes that if you treat customers like family, they become family. She knows all their families, helps out in troubled times and often shares in their woes and celebrations.
"People will call her and they have little problems and she'll be their counselor," said Trudeau's husband and former Grovetown mayor, Dennis Trudeau. "She loves helping people."
When asked, she even heads to the funeral homes to style the hair for clients who have recently passed away.
"I miss them," Trudeau said. "It is kind of like a part of me is gone."
That attitude and her desire to stay busy explains Trudeau's vast community and political service, her husband said.
In addition to running the beauty shop and two others in Harlem and on Walton Way in Augusta in the 1970s and 1980s and raising eight daughters, Trudeau spent 18 years serving as the city's mayor and city councilwoman. She was a justice of the peace for two decades, and put in eight years on the Columbia County Planning Commission.
In fact, she encouraged her husband to run for mayor in the late 1980s.
"When we got married, I talked him into taking up where I left off," Mrs. Trudeau said. Her husband retired from the post at the end of 2007. "He did a good job."
Mrs. Trudeau said the beauty shop was an invaluable source of information during her and her husband's political stints.
"We have a good time," said Gladys Fleming, who has been coming to the beauty shop since it opened. "We can gossip all we want."
But that gossip isn't always "girl" talk, especially around election time.
"If you're smart, you're going to make a stop there while you're campaigning, maybe two or three," said Mayor George James.
The beauty shop has been a campaign mainstay for both local and state candidates for decades.
"Not only did I stop there, but I stopped there with my dad when he campaigned in the 1970s," said attorney and former county commissioner and state representative Barry Fleming. "She can tell you what's going on in Grovetown because she talked to everybody at some point during the month."
Fleming and other candidates agree that visits to Trudeau and her beauty shop are a great way to get the pulse of the city, what issues concern residents, and to speak to someone who has a lot of influence among her peers.
"A lot of people respect her opinion for sure," Trudeau's husband said. "You pick up a lot of information, sitting in a beauty shop, listening to the mothers talking about their families. ... She is the pinnacle of a political place here in Grovetown."
Frank Albert agreed. On a recommendation, he visited Mary Ann's during his 1984 bid for a state Senate seat. The Grovetown area was the only Columbia County portion of the district then, he said. He won the Grovetown area and the election by 50 votes.
"She was really a big help. I give her full credit, maybe I ought to blame her, for me getting elected," Albert said with a laugh.
Trudeau is a straight-shooter who only supports who she believes in.
"I go for the people who are for the people," she said.
Trudeau's retirement from styling was supposed to coincide with her husband's retirement from city government at the end of 2007.
Instead, she's got her husband doing the beauty shop laundry and encourages him to play golf.
"We have a wonderful clientele here," Trudeau said. "We have a lot of fun."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.