SEFFNER — Handwritten messages inscribed on the brown butcher paper poster hanging inside Donna's Hair Styles salon told the story like a 1980s movie script.
One customer wrote "thanks for always making me pretty. Another declared "my social life is shot to hell."
Beauty and bonding. Friendships and follicles.
For the past 37 years that's what customers of Donna Lofley have come to relish when they sat on one of the three styling chairs at the quaint, 475 square-foot shop located at 1007 U.S. 92 in Seffner.
They visited in search of new dos to last them a few weeks. They left with lifelong memories that stretch an eternity. Lofley is retired, but not before more than 100 former customers called, signed the poster or just stopped by for a hug on her last day, June 2.
"We have had a lot of fun with a lot of nice people," said Lofley, who raised her prices only three times since opening her doors on Jan. 13, 1981. "Everybody that comes in is a friend."
After starting her career working in 1968 at Coiffure De Roma Beauty Salon in Temple Terrace, she brought a few customers with her that helped Donna's Salon eventually morph into its own version of Steel Magnolias, where a group of small town women forged forever friendships.
When she began, more than half of her clients were men. One of them is WFLA-Ch. 8 meteorologist Ed Bloodsworth who found Donna thanks to his grandmother, but kept returning because of her skills – with shears and people.
"She knew how to cut a very complicated kind of hair: wavy and curly for guys," Bloodsworth said. "She was one of the few women who knew how to handle that kind of hair. I've gone to several different places to get my hair cut but when I wanted something kind of quiet, nice folks and good conversation, Donna's always provided that. She's been a good friend of my family for many, many years and I appreciated giving her our business and going over to her shop."
As a Christian business, Lofley has done hair for weddings and funerals, provided free styles for the elderly, dished out amateur psychology and health tips and loaned money to friends. She counts a pair of 101-year old ladies as current clients and only 10 people as employees — in her entire history — including Demma McClure, a stylist for the past eight years.
"Donna is so good I can't work for anybody else," McClure said. "So, I'm retiring too."
Lofley, a Riverview resident and Brandon High School graduate who recently celebrated her 50th reunion, had planned to go to the University of Miami to become a lab technician. She thought hairdressing would be a good way to help pay for college.
"I liked it so well I never went to college and that I have never regretted because I enjoy this," she said.
Donna may be retired, but the salon will stay open under a new owner. Penelope Baggett, a master cosmetologist and color specialist will take over.
"She called for a job and I sold her the shop."
Contact Eric Vician at email@example.com.