Change is hard for everyone. Many of us do everything we can to fight it, but trying to stop change is futile. So, how can we deal with the change that is inevitable throughout our lives? That question can take a lifetime to figure out, but we recently had a chance to hear from a special group of ladies who have already lived through the answer.

Meet Ella, Arlin, Wanda, and Harriet, a tight knit group of expert-level hair stylists at Shay & Co. inside Dixieland Mall. They’ve had their salon there for 45 YEARS. That means they have seen a ton of change. When we went to interview Ella and Arlin about how the Dixieland area transformation has affected the shop, a much more important discussion also took place: how older clients passing on has affected their hearts.

 

Dixieland Mall Over The Last 50 Years

In the 60’s, Dixieland was the popular place to be (Funny how things return to where they came from… remember that for later). In fact, take note of the unique design of the building, and see if it looks familiar. The architect, Nils Schweizer, was actually an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, designer of the world-famous Florida Southern College campus.

(Photo provided by Lakeland Public Library)

The single-lane South Florida, large sidewalks, and exciting businesses created scenes straight out of Grease. Classical cars the size of small boats would pull into the parking lots on a Friday afternoon, filled with teenagers and adults alike jamming out to that oldies rock n’ roll magic. Retail shops and restaurants were busy all day long, and the huge annual Lakeland Christmas Parade even used to run straight through South Florida.

But then, the Mall fell into a dark time. Unable to expand or adjust to the quickly changing city, the Dixieland area suffered greatly. Stores shut down, restaurants moved away, and the community no longer had a reason to frequent the area.

This was the first sign that Ella and Arlin knew more than they let on: Through 25 years of stagnant growth in the Mall, Shay & Co. did just fine. They continued to cut the hair of all the dedicated patrons they still see today. There’s something special between you and your stylist or barber: once you find one you like, you are a customer for life. Extremely friendly staff and high quality service doesn’t hurt, either.

Now, Ella and Arlin say Dixieland Mall is the best it has been in 25 years. Much of the positive growth they attributed to Baron Realty and our CEO, Cory Petcoff. Ella says:

“Baron is constantly checking up on us, cleaning up the property every week, and making sure the right kinds of businesses are coming into the area. Cory is truly invested in us and his tenants, we really feel like we matter.”

 

And Then, Life Over The Last 50 Years

As we continued talking, something else kept happening that we couldn’t help but mention: these ladies, in their 70’s, were extremely comfortable talking about death. It was brought up in every story, as it usually does when reminiscing on the distant past. But these ladies were not particularly sad as they shared tales from their most intimate lifetime customers who have now passed away.

In fact, both Ella and Arlin realized that they’ve learned so much from their elders. Watching their happiest clients revealed that those who stay active, keep smiling, and take care of themselves are significantly more at peace as they grow old.

There’s even meant-to-be connections made at Shay & Co. The last story they shared was about two customers who both lost their spouses around the same time. The mourning period was tough for them, but then… Ella and Arlin hatched a plan. Due to some serious match-making on their part, those two customers fell in love and spent the next ten years laughing together.

 

Looking Toward The Future in Dixieland

When local long-term experts voice their thoughts on an area, you listen. They have plenty of knowledge, and are extremely positive about the next few years in the Mall. Both of them look forward to more potential retail and restaurants, which will only add to the foot traffic and magical atmosphere. They realize that investing in Dixieland used to be a risk; now, it’s a huge opportunity.

The next time you stop by Concord Coffee, walk through the Mall and take a peek at the unique and comfortable Shay & Co Salon. You might get a friendly wave from Ella, Arlin, and Wanda, and then watch them happily get back to the craft they’ve mastered over a lifetime.

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