Surrounded by the aroma of food and sounds of laughing students in the basement of the Morris University Center, University Hair salon has housed 51 years of makeovers and memories.
Separate from the university, Terry and Cindy Knebel pay rent for the space, and it has been in operation ever since the MUC was built. Terry came to the salon when he was 18 years old in 1972. Eventually he married Cindy, and she joined him 31 years ago in the hair care business.
Today, the Knebels are accompanied by receptionist Donna Lewis. A typical day at the salon consists of answering phone calls, keeping up with current appointments, scheduling new appointments and preparing for the next day before they leave.
“We start at 7 a.m. and we are never done before 7 or 7:30 at night,” Terry said.
As far as services go, University Hair does it all: cuts, styles, color and waxing. Prices vary based on the customer’s individual hair needs.
“We provide any type of service we can possibly do,” Terry said. “Everything that we can possibly do to a head of hair, we do.”
The Knebles value the unique location of their salon. According to Terry, the university is the perfect place to be able to experience a wide variety of hair needs.
“It’s a great place to be,” Terry said. “The university keeps you current and keeps you young. You get to do things that you wouldn’t get to do in downtown Highland or Edwardsville, or any place else. We get to do it all.”
While the Knebels teach their clients about taking care of their hair, Cindy believes that she has learned many lessons from her clients that she wouldn’t have learned at any other salon.
“You learn people’s viewpoints who know something,” Cindy said. “It’s not like standing in the little town where I live and everybody’s complaining about the price of gas. Here, somebody can tell you why you’re paying that price for gas.”
Despite the salon’s location, their primary clientele are not university students. In fact, Terry Knebel says 70 percent of their customers are from outside SIUE. The other 30 percent come from inside the university, and an estimated 5 percent are students. University Hair serves customers of all ages and many of their clients have been visiting the salon for years, some have even been seeing Terry since he started at the salon.
“Any type of business that is successful is a repeat business,” Terry said. “So it makes no difference where [the customers] come from, just as long as they come [back].”
This allows the Knebels to get to know their clients and their needs over the years to ensure a look they’ll love by the end of their appointment.
“I think a lot of it is the fact that you try to talk to people and ask what they want, and you try to make their hairstyle fit their head,” Cindy said. “If you work at Great Clips, you have to do three heads of hair in an hour. Now, what if somebody has more complicated hair? It’s not cookie-cutter.”
One customer who values this is Suzanne Gaudette, a manager for SIUE’s Information Technology Services. Gaudette has been to different hairdressers over the years, but she always ends up coming back to University Hair.
“It’s the personalized touch in what she does to your hair and in how she treats you,” Gaudette said. “It’s a fun experience when you come here. It’s not a negative atmosphere; it’s a positive atmosphere.”
As University Hair operates on a busy schedule, Terry recommends calling to set up an appointment at 618-650-2299.