BEING a confidante is part and parcel of being a hair stylist. At MK Hair salon – the first salon to operate in the history of the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle – the level of emotional support is tangible should the client be a patient. “We have had some beautiful patients here, and it’s like ‘How long have you been in for, what have you done,’” says salon co-owner Maxine White of the conversations that take place. “They come in a bit flat and not feeling the best, and by the time we have had a chat and a giggle and a cut they are in a better space. “[Our work] is a feel good thing because when you are in hospital you don’t feel the best but when your hair is right you feel better, it lifts your spirits.” READ MORE:  BUSINESS NEWS IN THE HUNTER Ms White opened the salon with her friend and long-time colleague Kay Lavender in early January. With combined styling experience of 80 years, the pair offer express cuts and blow dries for patients, hospital staff and visitors. Trade has been steady, the women say, and will increase in February as more hospital staff return from holidays. The idea for the salon has been five years in the making. Initially, Ms White approached the hospital with the idea for the salon, believing it was needed and noting that salons were located in other major city hospitals. “I had always wanted to run a business myself, and when you are looking to do a salon you have to think of three things: location, foot traffic and no competition, so the hospital was perfect,” she says. Initially she had planned to do the venture with her sister however a site fell through and their plans were put on hold until early 2018, when they received an email saying a site was available for lease. Ms Lavender leapt at the opportunity to be a business partner in the salon, which opens Monday to Friday. The salon has four cutting stations and two basins and has easy wheelchair access and space to accommodate chairs at cutting stations. Beyond the cut and dry service, the salon also does fringe trims, beards, moustaches and shampoo and conditioning treatments. “It is quite relaxed, there is a lot of passing trade and we have had all sorts pop in,” says Ms White. “They are all saying ‘What a great idea, it should have happened a long time ago.” Ms Lavender said she enjoyed working with her friend and hearing the stories of clients. “You ask why they are here and the ball is rolling,  and by the time they leave they are feeling better for having unloaded,” she says. “That’s what hairdressing is. It’s surprising what people will tell you when they sit down.”

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