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Zanutto's hair studio opens in Heartland Center

Gabriele Zanutto adds flair to hair at her studio under the pines. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Majestic pines provide a backdrop for Gabriele Zanutto Hair Studio, adding another dimension of artistry to the creative process indoors.

"The art of hair I truly enjoy," Zanutto said.

"This is a studio," she emphasizes of her location at Heartland Center of Natural Healing on Highway 34 east, "not another salon."

Zanutto grew up in Germany, emigrating to the U.S. in 1985 with a friend. She was 24. Her possessions were a backpack and sleeping bag.

The duo rode horses from Montana to the Selway River in Idaho. "I grew up in a city. I had no clue how to ride horseback," she confesses. "I was a nervous wreck, going through the canyons," her saddlebags holding chili beans, fishing poles and a rifle. "We lived off rabbits, grouse, fish and chili.

"I was looking for a change in lifestyle; I found it," she said.

Zanutto stayed in Elk City, Idaho for a year, moving to Salmon, Idaho where she worked as head cook in the Frank Church Wilderness Area. The Salmon River Lodge, welcoming families for hunting, fishing and camping, had no electricity, no running water. She spent April through November at the camp.

"Then a wildfire came across the mountain top," she said. "I'd never seen anything like it." She and others at the camp were airlifted from the camp by helicopter.

"A year later, I became a Forest Service firefighter," shedding her apron for a yellow and green uniform.

When son Cody Schirmers was born in 1991, she extinguished her firefighting career. "I became a mom; that was my priority."

She moved to Minnesota in 1994, daughter Mandy Schirmers, now a junior at Park Rapids Area High School, also arriving on the scene.

In 2004, she returned to school at Minnesota State and Technical College-Wadena to study cosmetology, drawn by the hands-on techniques and interaction with people.

"This keeps me creative," she said. A human relations class reminded her cosmetologists must be listeners, to understand the clients' wishes.

"I visualize what they are looking for, consider their lifestyle," she said of her relationship with clients. "A mother of five doesn't have time for some styles."

Zanutto offers services from the basic shampoo and styling to color, cut and a perm, within a single session upon request.

She brings seven years' experience to her role.

She offers Abba products, a natural, green line of shampoos, conditioning, treatments and styling. The products are vegan and sulfur-free.

She welcomes men, women and children and offers student discounts.

Zanutto will return to Germany in April where she plans to take education classes in the Wella hair color line.

"My goal is to bring Euro hair flair techniques back to Park Rapids," she said.

"I miss being outside," she said of her former vocations. "I look at the world through different eyes than most," she said of her experiences.

"But I love doing hair. I love people. And people are happy when they walk out."

The studio is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and before, after and Saturdays by appointment.