Julianne Kimmel didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. But now, as the owner of Lone Wolf Salon, she’s managed to build a life out of one of her passions. and found a way to move his community forward towards a better future.
As a youngster, Kimmel explored a few different interests before he was finally spoken to. “I was playing fiddle, viola, and cello, and I wanted to go western,” she says, “but then I quit because I wanted to be an actor. It didn’t work out, so I went to dental assisting school – and realized that I don’t do well with blood.
She remembered wanting to be a makeup artist at one point, and although there were no programs available at Bellingham, a cosmetology license would bring her closer to that goal. During her classes at Tony & Guy, inspiration finally struck.
“As soon as I had the scissors in my hand and stood behind the chair, I knew this was what I was going to be,” she says.
Kimmel’s career began in a mall saloon before moving to downtown Bellingham. “I’ve always been intrigued by barbering and shaving, and was lucky enough to work under Wally at Wally’s Barbershop,” she says. “I really liked that it was old school; he learned barbering in the 1950s, then he had military training, I believe, and that’s where I got my intensive training.
While she loved the education and the atmosphere, she knew she wanted to learn more. “I’m the type to move on. If I feel stagnant, I get restless,” Kimmel says.
After gaining more experience downtown, then at a store opened by a former colleague, her desire to make her own decisions met a promise she had made to herself earlier. “It was actually kind of a quarter-life crisis,” says Kimmel. “When I was in beauty school, I thought I was going to own my own business at 30. So, at 29, I did the numbers and realized it wasn’t not a crazy decision, financially.”
Opening her own salon means Kimmel is free to create the kind of world she wants to live in.
“Growing up in Bellingham it was very difficult to find a stylist. I remember going from salon to salon with my mum and being turned down because they didn’t do my hair type, so I ended up cutting my own hair – and looking back, it was terrible,” she laughs. “I still talk to a lot of multicultural people who cut their own hair. help them realize that their hair is beautiful, and there are people who have the knowledge to help them.
And while it can be difficult to find someone in the area qualified to work with black hair, Kimmel has seen that people of all ethnicities can grow all kinds of hair. So, in an industry that traditionally charged customers based on their gender and ethnicity, Kimmel chose instead to gauge the amount of work to be done. “I remember doing a really quick clipper cut,” she says, “and I was about to charge double because it was for a woman. I said, ‘I decide , right now, that’s not right.'”
It also means that Kimmel takes a different approach to customers who don’t fit into traditional male or female roles. “I think it can be very difficult for someone who isn’t binary to choose a men’s cut or a women’s cut,” she says. “I feel like there are a lot more companies that are becoming more inclusive, but for the most part they still call themselves men or women.”
Going beyond tradition is Kimmel’s way of allowing customers to feel truly relaxed inside the Lone Wolf salon — a feeling that people don’t always get during hair appointments. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault,” she said. “You walk in with greasy hair, and you’re surrounded by beautiful women, and you’re like, ‘I should have put on mascara.’ I really want people to be able to come into my living room as they are.
Kimmel really cares about people feeling comfortable in her salon because she knows the power a haircut can have. “I can see it in the way someone walks out of my living room a little bigger, or if I dry someone’s hair and they do a glamorous flip, or the different way they look in the mirror,” she says. “That, to me, is moving.”
Sitting in her studio facing Bellingham Bay, talking about her values, Kimmel is proud of what she has achieved.
“I had people helping me along the way, but I literally started in this room with just a camp chair,” she says, looking around the bright, open space. “I’m still building, and one day I would like people to come to Bellingham and offer ethnic hairdressing lessons. I appreciate the connections I make in my own private place, but eventually I would like to develop my wolf pack. But my vision is always to have a living room that is inclusive for everyone.
The lineup is available on the Kimmel’s Lone Wolf website. She also makes occasional appearances on Instagram and Facebook.