“People always want to get their hair done,” Karen Ehrlich said. “People keep making things.”
She makes it sound simple — Down on the Corner and Hair Corner’s collective reason of sustainability. The cooperating businesses celebrated their fifth anniversary this past week, Sept. 10 through Friday, at their location on west Main Street in Marion.
Originally, it was hairstylist Betty Stenzel’s idea to combine forces with Ehrlich. She had done Ehrlich’s hair for years and knew they would get along easily. Stenzel wanted to strike out on her own after working at salon in Marion for 30 years. Ehrlich was ready to retire from Kansas Department of Transportation. They could share the rent; the collaboration made sense, except that the businesses do not necessarily relate.
At this point, Stenzel is more interested in sustaining her client base than any type of growth. She knows what she is — a hairstylist mostly for older women, women who are used to going to the salon once a week.
Ehrlich’s yarn shop is the business that has grown. Down on the Corner began as her place to sell the items she makes. During business hours she is constantly knitting and crocheting hats, gloves, shawls, sweaters, rugs, and anything else she can put together with two needles. One creation is a handbag made of grocery sacks — over 100 tied taut into a singular glossy plastic structure. Another popular item is a hand-crocheted rug. They require sheets to be torn into strips before they can be tied together. She uses discarded bed sheets purchased from thrift stores.
When Duckwalls closed in 2010, Ehrlich expanded Down on the Corner to include yarn, needles, embroider floss, pins, and biased tape to buy. She also has yarn available at Kessler Kreations in Hillsboro.
Down on the Corner is Ehrlich’s venue to teach knitting and crocheting. Her students range in age from 11 to 98 years old. She is proud that she is passing knitting to another generation. One of her top pupils is Claire Heyen a freshman at Hillsboro High School, who just won a purple ribbon at the Marion County Fair. However, she has plenty of adults come into the shop who always wanted to learn to knit but never took the time.
Down on the Corner and the Hair Corner work well together because the businesses provide a mixture of new and familiar. Stenzel and Ehrlich also work well together — they do not hesitate to voice a concern with one another and once it has been said go back to business.
That’s why they are planning to be in business at least another 5 years.