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A long career in style: Main Street School of Cosmetology owner retiring after 65 years

Rose Strom, at center, congratulates Lauren Dickey on winning a $5,000 scholarship back in 2016. After 65 years in the cosmetology business, Strom is retiring in May. (Photo courtesy of Rose Strom)

ISHPEMING — After 65 years in the cosmetology business, Main Street School of Cosmetology owner Rose Strom is retiring in May.

Strom, 82, has been in the profession since she graduated from Ishpeming High School in 1956. At that time, she didn’t even want to think about going back to school.

“I said once I got out of high school, I wasn’t going to go back to school. But it was about not even a month, and I registered to go to beauty school,” Strom said.

Strom graduated from beauty school not even a year later in 1957, and went down to the advanced Virginia Farrell Beauty School in Detroit to learn more about performing hair color and perm jobs, she said.

Once graduated from there, she moved back to Ishpeming and worked at Rosemarie’s beauty school — named after her — that her dad opened up for her. With her mother and two aunts being cosmetologists too, it felt like a family business, Strom said.

Then, after making several stops in Texas, heading back to Ishpeming, and then going downstate to Lansing — with marriage and multiple home salons in between — Strom went to Lansing Community College and graduated with an instructor’s license.

She got a “nice job” at Craig’s College of Beauty in Lansing before moving back up to Ishpeming for good, she said.

Strom was then appointed to the State Board of Cosmetology and held a chairperson position, which meant she needed to fly downstate each month for meetings.

“That was a big honor, because god, I traveled a lot with the boards. It was a big honor for me, someone from Ishpeming,” Strom said.

She then went on to become a teacher at Northern Michigan University’s beauty school when it was in its first year of the program. With her five kids grown up, Strom taught at NMU, and retired from there after a long tenure.

After retiring, Strom went back to NMU to work with children who had disabilities. It was a very rewarding job, she added.

After that role, thinking she was retired again, Strom’s nephew let her know about a new beauty school in Ishpeming.

She went down to the store and was nosey, she said, and happened to know the man who was running it.

However, the owner was going to shut down the school with 20-plus students currently enrolled.

Strom refused to let that happen to those students, and she took over the school to help the remaining students finish their studies.

Ever since, she has proudly owned Main Street Cosmetology. Along her journey, Strom helped financially burdened students complete their studies.

However, now Strom’s eyesight is going and she can’t do what she wants to do at the school, she said. If she had the choice, she said she’d keep it open forever.

There are still two students going through the school and it will close when they’re finished in May.

“A lot of people with my health and that go, ‘Rose, just close the school’. No way will I close the school until everybody is gone. I’m not going to repeat history,” Strom said. “I just don’t want to (close in May,) I wish I had someone that could take it over. I had to turn down so many students that wanted to start, but I couldn’t start them if I couldn’t finish it. I’m not going to repeat history, because you can’t just do that to young people.”

The building in downtown Ishpeming has been sold, and the beauty school will be no more.

It’s been challenging for Strom to give up her passion.

“It’s so hard to give it up. You know what? I loved my job, I loved it. And I never said one time, ‘boy, I hate to go work today’,” Strom said. “Work was always something new, we had a lot of shows here. We did lots of things, and you better be active.”

Strom’s not sure what’s next, but taking a gardening class or visiting nursing home residents are possible options, she said.

Regardless, she will continue to be recognized in the community for her six-plus decades of work in cosmetology.

“It’s wonderful, no matter where I go, I know somebody or somebody knows me. It was a very rewarding profession,” Strom said. “That was a big part of my life, my work. And I could share it with people, I’m a very social person.”

Travis Nelson can be reached at tranelso@nmu.edu.

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