Busy Bee owner closes shop after 35 years

January 07, 2002

Busy Bee owner closes shop after 35 years


HAGERSTOWN - On Dec. 29, Louise Harbaugh closed the door on a 47-year career that gave her an extended family, but she has every intention of staying in touch with that family.

"It's been a close-knit bunch of women," Harbaugh said of the loyal customers whose hair she styled for decades, some for more than 35 years.

Harbaugh, 68, closed Busy Bee Beauty Salon on the second floor of the Professional Arts Building on Hagerstown's Public Square after owning the business for 35 years and being in the business for 47.

"I guess we grew older together," Harbaugh said.

She has seen several of her friends pass away and watched others' health decline.

If one of the women couldn't make it into the shop for health reasons, Harbaugh would go to her.

Harbaugh decided to retire so she can care for her husband, Dick, whose health is declining.


Friend and customer Harriett McAllister said she knew the shop's closing was coming, but was hoping it would be later.

"We always felt at home with Louise. She was a very easy person to be around," said McAllister, 66, who lives west of Hagerstown.

"If you had a problem, she'd listen to you," McAllister said. "She was more than a beautician. She was a good friend."

McAllister was one of a few customers who attended the wedding of Harbaugh's daughter, Susan Mills, who worked part time at Busy Bee for almost 20 years.

McAllister often would pick up Harbaugh and a fellow customer early on Saturdays and take them to the shop.

"I was here every day early. There was always someone here to do," Harbaugh said.

She often started work at 6:30 a.m. so she could close up shop by 2 p.m.

During the hours in between, the women talked about their families and world news they read in the day's paper or breaking news they heard on the radio hanging on the wall.

With a cozy two-chair setup, the clients got to know each other, Harbaugh said.

"So it was like one big family," she said.

Sometimes they even ventured out together, such as on the annual day-after-Christmas shopping spree, Harbaugh said. This past December was the first time in 20 years the spree didn't occur.

Harbaugh and some "family" members plan to get together this summer for a covered-dish supper.

"None of them live a million miles away. It's not like I'm not going to run into them," Harbaugh said.

Family and friends threw her a retirement party on Dec. 2, presenting Harbaugh with a memory book of mementos from her years in the business.

The book includes a picture of Harbaugh and her co-workers at Style Rite Beauty Salon. Harbaugh got her professional start at age 21 at the 33 W. Franklin St. beauty salon as an apprentice for owner Mae Cole.

She got her unofficial start when she "piddled around" with her mother's hair as a young girl. She washed it, rolled it and trimmed it.

The memory book also has notes from customers such as Alice Miller.

"She's just a very special person. I'm going to miss her tremendously," Miller said Friday. "I've never seen her upset with anybody. She was always very pleasant."

Miller, 77, of Maugansville, recently got a perm by Harbaugh so she's set for another few months, but will have to begin searching for a new stylist in the spring.

"It'll never be the same because she knew exactly what to do with my hair," said Miller, who was Harbaugh's customer for 39 years.

"She's not going to be easy to replace because of personality and because she had the personal interest," Miller said. "She knew my hair better than I knew my own."

The Herald-Mail Articles