meet along the way: Hair Force

Women do incredible things. Here, we feature the stories of women who are a part of the Southeast Missouri community by way of living here, being from here or passing through. We hope these stories inspire you to connect with others and that they encourage you to be who you are in the world. We need you and your unique gifts.

This story was first published in the January 2019 issue of “The Best Years (TBY).”

Some families pass down an heirloom from mother to daughter. Other families pass down a name. Still other families pass down a piece of land.

The Pobst women pass down an occupation.

Sondra Pobst and her daughter, Rhonda Pobst Naeter, and Sondra’s granddaughter, Krystin Ruch, as well as Sondra’s daughter-in-law, Carmen Pobst, all work as hair stylists at Hair Force, on Broadway in Cape Girardeau. Upon walking in, the women laugh and joke with each other, and it feels like family. This atmosphere is one of the reasons the women like to keep their shop small; they are its only employees. Sondra, the matriarch, founded the shop in 1984.

“I just always cut hair for my family,” Sondra says. “My mom’s friends, she would have them come over, and I would cut their hair.”

Sondra did this from the time she was 14, knowing she wanted to work with hair for her job someday. After the youngest of her three children went to kindergarten, Sondra went to beauty school. As soon as she graduated, she opened a shop, Sondra’s Hair Fashions, in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Sondra worked there for three years before moving to Town Plaza in Cape Girardeau, where she opened Hair Port. After this, she opened Hair Force at the corner of Sprigg and Independence streets in Cape Girardeau. The salon was there for 11 years before it moved to Hair Force’s current location in 1995. She retired this past year.

Rhonda took over Hair Force as the owner/operator in 1987. Unlike her mother, Rhonda never wanted to work with hair because she had grown up around her mother’s salon; instead, she wanted to be a dental hygienist. She says she hated the dental assistant position she worked in before she began working as a stylist, however, and came into her mother’s salon one day at lunch, crying.

“The state inspector was in there, and she was a friend of Mom’s, and she goes, ‘Well, what are you doing working for a dentist, anyway? You ought to be in here helping your mom,’” Rhonda recalls. “So that just sparked something. It meant I didn’t have to go back to this other job.”

That was 39 years ago. Sondra apprenticed Rhonda, and now Rhonda says she enjoys everything about being a stylist. Specifically, she loves interacting with the people who come into her salon, and the way each hairstyle is different every time. From 1987 to 1995, she owned Kids Kuts in Town Plaza; she has been the stylist for many of her clients for 30 years.

Krystin has been around the business from the time she was 6 months old in the nursery Sondra created in the back of the salon. Krystin, like her own mother, Rhonda, didn’t want to be a stylist. Despite changing her major three times while attending Southeast Missouri State University, however, she couldn’t find a topic of study she wanted to pursue. She decided to take a break and attend beauty school, instead.

Krystin joined her family at Hair Force in July 2018 and is now also a full-time student studying psychology online at Southeast, while working at the salon. In addition to working as a stylist, upon graduation she plans to teach courses required for stylist certification, classes that will help stylists recognize and report abuse in their clients’ lives.

“You are a therapist when you’re a hairdresser,” Sondra says.

Krystin agrees, noting they as stylists are often the first to know clients’ joyful and devastating news.

“We joke that I’m going to be a hairapist, instead of a therapist,” Krystin says. “You get those clients in your chair, and they just start talking.”

Carmen, who is married to Rhonda’s brother, joined the team in 2016, after Rhonda told her she would be a good stylist. Carmen decided to become Rhonda’s apprentice, and went to work at the salon.

“She does makeup great, she does the eyelashes great, she does a lot of things that I don’t — I just do hair,” Rhonda says. “So she adds a whole lot to the shop.”

All of the women agree: working together as stylists doesn’t even feel like work.

“I think just the three or sometimes four of us being in here, it’s just so much more personable,” Carmen says. “We have a blast. We giggle all day long. … We’re pretty close-knit.”

The women of Hair Force are active within the local community, too, helping with hair and makeup for the annual Safe House for Women VintageNOW fashion show. They also regularly attend hair shows and classes to continue learning. Two years ago, they remodeled their shop, which Rhonda designed herself.

Working with her family members is something Rhonda treasures.

“I got lucky because my first job working with my mom, we were like best friends, and I worked with her for 37 years,” she says. “Now I get to work with my daughter.”

The women are succeeding in creating a family environment not only for themselves, but for their clients, as well. This atmosphere is one reason client Ruth Dockins of Cape Girardeau enjoys going to the shop.

“I love coming here because it’s kind of a family affair,” Ruth says. “It’s just kind of like going to your best friend’s house to get your hair done.”

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