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 from one of her passions and found a way to move her community forward to a brighter future.
As a youngster, Kimmel explored a few different interests before one finally spoke to her. “I played the violin, the viola and cello, and wanted to go to Western,” she says, “but then quit because I wanted to be an actor. That didn’t work out, so I went to dental assisting school — and realized 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 in Bellingham, a cosmetology license would get her closer to that goal. During her classes at Tony & Guy, inspiration finally struck.
“As soon as I had the shears in my hand and I stood behind the chair, I knew that was what I was going to be,” she says.
Kimmel’s career began at a salon in the mall before she made her move into downtown Bellingham. “I’ve always been intrigued by barbering and shaving, and I had the chance to work under Wally at Wally’s Barbershop,” she says. “I really liked that he was old-school; he learned barbering in the 1950s, and then he had some military background, 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 a ‘keep-moving-forward’ kind of person. If I feel stagnant, I get restless,” Kimmel says.
After gathering more experience downtown, and then at a shop started by a former coworker, her desire to call her own shots met with a promise she’d made to herself earlier. “It was actually a quarter-life crisis type of thing,” says Kimmel. “When I was in beauty school, I told myself I was going to own my own business when I was 30. So, when I was 29, I did the numbers, and realized it wasn’t much of a crazy move, financially.”
Opening a salon of her own has meant that Kimmel is free to create the kind of world she wants to live in.
“Growing up in Bellingham, it was very difficult finding a stylist. I remember going from salon to salon with my mom and being turned down because they did not do my type of hair, so I ended up cutting my own hair — and looking back, it was terrible,” she says with a laugh. “I still speak to a lot of multicultural people who are cutting their own hair. I like to help empower them to realize their hair is beautiful, and there are people out there with the knowledge to help them out.”
And while it can be difficult to find someone in the local area qualified to work with Black hair, Kimmel has seen that people of all ethnicities can grow all sorts of hair. So, in an industry that has traditionally charged customers based on their sex and ethnicity, Kimmel has chosen to instead evaluate the amount of work that needs to be done. “I remember doing a really quick clipper cut,” she says, “and I was about to charge twice as much because it was for a woman. I said, ‘I am deciding, right now, that this is not okay.’”
This also means that Kimmel has a different approach to clients who do not find a place for themselves within traditional male or female roles. “I think it can be very difficult for someone who is non-binary to select a men’s cut or a women’s cut,” she says. “I feel like there are a lot more businesses becoming more inclusive, but for the most part it still called men’s or women’s.”
Moving beyond tradition is one way Kimmel allow clients to feel truly relaxed inside of Lone Wolf Salon — a feeling people don’t always get at hair appointments. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault,” she says. “You come in with greasy hair, and you’re surrounded by gorgeous women, and you’re like, ‘I should’ve put on some mascara.’ I really want the point to be that people can come into my salon as they are.”
Kimmel is serious about making people comfortable in her salon because she knows the power a haircut can have. “I can see it in the way that somebody walks out of my salon a little bit taller, or if I’m blow drying somebody’s hair and they do a glamorous flip, or the different way they look at themselves in the mirror,” she says. “That, to me, is emotional.”
Sitting in her Bellingham Bay-facing studio, talking about her values, Kimmel is proud of what she’s accomplished.
“I did have people helping me along the way, but I literally started in this room with just a camping chair,” she says, looking around the bright, open space. “I’m still building, and I would one day like to have people come to Bellingham and offer classes for ethnic hair. I do appreciate the connections I make in my own private spot but would like to grow my wolf pack eventually. But my vision is still to have a salon that is inclusive to everyone.”