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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Laid-Off Hair Stylists Band Together To Open Logan Square Hair Salon Doll Heads

The salon is colorful and offers gender-neutral services — and is taking steps to make clients feel comfortable amid the pandemic.

Doll Heads wners Kemberly Vega (left) and Shelly Carbone
Provided/Brenna Hernandez
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LOGAN SQUARE — After national chain Hair Cuttery closed 800 salons, hairstylist Shelly Carbone sprung into action to open her own salon.

Carbone, the general manager of the Hair Cuttery at Elston and Logan avenues for 10 years, was laid off in May. She is now the co-owner of Logan Square’s newest hair salon, Doll Heads, which opened this month at 3319 W. Armitage Ave. 

Along with co-owner Kemberly Vega, Carbone enlisted two stylists from Hair Cuttery to bring Doll Heads to life. Since its opening, the salon has become a colorful and inviting spot in the neighborhood, Carbone said. 

Carbone said the salon has seen a steady flow of years-long clients excited for the new space and five new clients who saw the salon from walking by or from social media. 

“My No. 1 feeling is gratitude since we opened,” Carbone said. “I can’t believe that we took this basket of lemons and we made so much lemonade.”

After Carbone got laid off on a Zoom call, she and her wife got in the car and drove around Logan Square to take pictures of all the storefronts for rent. The next day, she called each one of them until she settled on Doll Heads’ location. 

Carbone called the opening process and starting a new business akin to “your life doing a 180,” especially considering the strain of the pandemic.

The owners were given the keys to the space June 6 and set to work to beautify the salon with a large flower mural painted by Carbone, four colorful work stations, painted walls, new floor tiles and three couches with bright pillows to make people feel at home and to allow for social distancing while waiting. 

“I want people to come in and feel like you are sitting in your living room,” Carbone said. 

The owners also wanted to create a space that caters to everyone and is inclusive of all genders and styles. For that reason, the salon’s motto is, “A colorful salon for she, he, them and all.” The slogan is painted on the front window. 

Credit: Provided/Brenna Hernandez

Carbone said all of Doll Heads’ services are gender-neutral instead of traditional women or men’s cuts, which she said fits in with Logan Square’s community. 

“It’s all based on what kind of hair cut you want — I don’t care what’s in your pants,” she said. “The neighborhood is very diverse and we did not want to just attract one kind of human. We want all the humans.”

Logan Square resident and local photographer Brenna Hernandez, who has been Carbone’s loyal customer for five years, was happy to know her stylist had found a new home walking distance from her house. 

To welcome the salon and stylists to the neighborhood, Hernandez took pictures of the team during a fun photoshoot that included the salon dog, Cielo. 

“When I found out Hair Cuttery closed and [Carbone] was opening up a new salon, I was just happy that I would still get to go to her and she’d still be working in Chicago,” Hernandez said. “Then when she told me the address, two blocks away from where I live, I was super excited. It could not be more perfect.”

Hernandez, who has already had her hair done at Doll Heads, said the salon’s atmosphere is welcoming. She was impressed with the way Carbone turned a difficult result into a new chapter for her career, especially amid a pandemic.

Hair Cuttery closing “was the push for her. Obviously she had to make a move, and I just hope they don’t get shut down if the city goes back” to Phase 3, Hernandez said. “Opening a new business during a pandemic is no easy feat.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has warned the city could reverse course and go back to Phase 3 if new cases continue to rise. Carbone hopes that doesn’t happen and said she has been taking every precaution necessary to make sure clients and stylists are safe at work.

Carbone said opening the business during the pandemic was surprisingly smooth, but the owners are still very conscious about every financial decision in an effort to save money in case they are forced to close.  

Despite that lingering uneasy feeling, Carbone said the community response has been positive. What’s even better is the group of women she works with, who have been like her family for years, she said. 

“I don’t have to worry about who I work with or trusting each other or taking care of each other because we already know that’s how we all live our lives,” Carbone said. “It feels great this is able to happen in a pandemic; who would have thought?” 

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