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Kleen opens Kesh Salon on 4th Street in Park Rapids

Laurie Cumber is among the clients who arrive at Kesh Salon, Samantha Kleen sharing her talent and experience to create "great hair." (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Samantha Kleen was nearly late for prom.

The Nevis senior had coiffed four of her friends' hair, with a mere 45 minutes remaining before she and her date would step before the camera.

She would head off to college after graduation in 2004. But her "passion for hair" would send her off to Eden Prairie to hone her skills as a personal stylist, realizing her aunt's prophesy.

At 7, Kleen's penchant for locks led her aunt to forecast her career.

Mom Susan Schmidt, a registered nurse, originally frowned on her daughter's aspirations, eyeing a more stable career in the medical field.

"It took a while to convince her," Kleen said. "But it was something I wanted to do. I've always wanted my own salon."

Her dream became reality for the personal stylist who has opened Kesh Salon at 103 4th Street West in Park Rapids, the Sanskrit word "reflects what I do - hair.

"Hair is a person's number one accessory," she said. "It's something we wear every day. It reflects how a person feels.

"I see hair as an art form," she said. She encourages clients to show her photos of what they like. "It's hard to verbally describe" a style. If we both look at it, it's foolproof."

For some, though, it's hard to accept what their hair can and cannot do, she said.

That's where a bit of counseling comes into play. "I'm honest with people. I tell them if it won't work. I won't do something I think they can't manage."

Her tutelage includes product advice. "I prescribe what people should be using to make hair healthier. I won't sell a product that doesn't have a purpose."

To that end, she uses the Wella color line, with 112 shades, as well as shampoo and conditioner. She also carries the "clean, refreshing line" of Brocato styling products.

Her services include cuts, color, hair removal and keratin treatment - a basic protein added to hair to add luster and release curl.

Kleen apprenticed at the Jon English Salon in Uptown. "That's what shaped me," she said watching the techniques of noted stylists in the Twin Cities.

"But I missed home and my 11-year-old brother and the lake. " So after six years in the metro, she returned to the woods.

"I love the transition."

Kesh Salon hours are Monday through Friday and Saturday, by appointment. She can be reached at 237-2800.

"I love what I do; it doesn't seem like work."