ZEPHYRHILLS — With a foil comb and a color brush, Felicia Richards revived a customer's hair and brightened her day.
The chance to do both for patrons of BeautyRadio.com Salon is why Richards loves her job. The salon, which moved earlier this month from its original location on Fifth Avenue to Gall Boulevard, is the fruition of a passion she discovered as a kid.
"I loved hair my whole life," said Richards, 27, who has always experimented with colors and styles.
Growing up, having her hair done in a salon was "one of my favorite things to do," she said. "I'd feel prettier and happier afterward."
After high school, she briefly attended college, she said, before she learned about a Disney internship. But before she could attend an informational meeting about it, she had to make a change.
"My hair was bright blue," she said. "I couldn't go with blue hair."
In her quest for a salon that could help, she found the Paul Mitchell school in Tampa, where a student quickly turned her hair from blue to brown.
Impressed by what she watched, she made a decision: "I'm not going back to college," she said. "I'm going to hair school."
She interned for Disney first, but made good on her promise to herself. She enrolled at Paul Mitchell in 2007 and completed training in 2008. In 2009, she met fellow hairdresser Deano Dotson at the JC Penney salon where they both worked.
Dotson, 52, has cut hair since high school, when friends impressed by his penchant for art told him artists can cut hair, too. In college, he interned in electronic engineering at General Motors.
"I hated what they wanted me to do," said Dotson. "I couldn't spend my life in a cubicle."
So in 1979 he showed up at a beauty school and asked how he could make money doing hair. He was a licensed hairdresser by 1980.
Dotson and Richards married in 2011 and in keeping with their career goals, opened BeautyRadio.com Salon at its original location in 2012. They learned there is benefit in owning a salon of their own instead of working at somebody else's: "Create your own schedule, use whatever product you want, whatever color line you want," Richards said.
She and Dotson regularly take classes and attend hair shows to keep their skills sharp and stay on top of trends.
Long hair is popular now, Dotson said, and so is color.
At BeautyRadio.com Salon, "we do a lot of party colors: reds, pinks, rainbow," Richards said. She specializes in highlights, and "dimensional color, block color, any kind of creative color." Dotson specializes in color, too, and both owners cut hair.
But soon, Dotson hopes, what the salon offers won't be limited to colors, cuts and styles. Half the new building is still empty but will become a "bar cafe," where customers can sip wine with cheese and bread. In the meantime, customers can count on haircuts.
"My hair was fried from a bad perm," said Ramona Vasko, 70, who lives in Dade City. She trusted Richards to fix it, she said, because she has "a willingness to listen to what the person wants."
What Richards wants is for customers to get what they want — "to be proud of their hair," she said, and "to feel good about themselves."
Arleen Spenceley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6235.