This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: One of the newest music venues in Clayton is a .... hair salon?
"It is a new concept, as far as I know," quipped Sharon Hall, the owner of the Sip Salon, a coffeehouse and hair salon, on Forsyth. "People walk in and say, 'What is this?' And if they look friendly, my reply to them is, 'What do you need it to be right now?'"
The concert venue side of the business is Hall's newest pursuit and where she is focusing most of her energy.
Starting in February, Hall began hosting free Corridor Concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. Local folk musicians are invited to play in a particularly intimate setting: the hallway-sized space next to Sip Salon.
The fact that the space seats only about 20 guests, though, does not seem to be working against it.
"It’s a really nice venue. Sound’s really good in there," said Jill Witts, who attended the July 13 concert that featured her husband, a guitarist named Bill Witts, and a bassist named John Lucero.
For that event, though, the duo went by Juan and Beelo, one of their many performance names. Lucero and Witts have been playing together for about eight years in a larger band called Ragged Edge.
For their two-piece performance, they are trying something different than Ragged Edge's louder, electric tunes.
"When we started playing together, one of the things we consciously decided we were going to do was not play Top 40 music. We wanted to play obscure tunes, we wanted to play music we liked," Witts said. "This [audience] in here is easy because they live in the kind of music that we live in every day. I just want them to have a good time."
While Witts and Lucero agreed that the accoustics are great in the corridor, that also made these performances more intimidating.
"A lot of times, you’re so far away. These people are here to listen to us. I remember the first time that happened — it was actually at the Stone Spiral (a coffehouse in Maplewood) — we started singing and everybody turned around to listen to us. It was like, now I’m scared," Lucero said.
This was Witts' first time in 35 years playing without a microphone or any amplification.
"I was telling my wife on the way up here tonight, I’m more nervous coming in here than I am going anywhere else to play," he said.
Despite these fears, the audience did not seem disappointed. Applause could be heard after each set.
Jennifer Martin was one of about 20 guests at the concert on July 13. She had known Witts for a length of time and came to the concert as a sort of commemoration.
"Fifteen years ago, he played at our wedding. We’re out tonight celebrating our anniversary, so we had to come see. It was just perfect," Martin said.
Jill Witts said that this atmosphere of "a lot of friends" was a staple of the Corridor Concerts.
Indeed, Lucero also plays bass for Hall's band, which goes by the name of Willow Creek. Their main genres are folk, blues, Americana and bluegrass.
Hall, who is a singer and songwriter as well as a hair stylist, was raised around music. Her mother had nine sisters who all sang gospel.
"As a little kid, I would be sitting with them — we’d all be sitting around, that’s when I learned to play guitar — and I would be singing, and so I really learned to sing harmony with my little aunties in the country and it just took off. It just became a real passion," she said.
Now, she hopes to sharing her passion with others in a more unusual venue.
"I’m of the age where I don’t like going out and hearing this loud raucous music. I do sometimes, but if you’re going out with friends, you want to be able to hear music and talk and just carry on conversation," Hall said. "That’s what I’d like the corridor to be, and I think that’s what it’s becoming."
Although the concerts are taking up most of her time, Hall said that she still has some "irons in the fire" with things that she could do in the rest of Sip Salon.
Hall had previously had a cafe in a space on Clayton Road next to her salon.
"Then life took over, kids, everything, so I sold both of those. But I always wanted to do it again," she said.
With Sip Salon, she can combine her two passions once more. The first was hairstyling, an interest that she has had since childhood.
"A woman that used to babysit me after school, she worked at a salon and then she later had her own salon. I would just go as a young girl after school and pretend to be taking appointments at the desk and fold towels and do just little things that I could do, being really young. I just enjoyed it," Hall said. "I heard people talking and laughing, and it’s creative. I call it sculpting with hair."
Owning a hair salon seems to be a suitable business for her, as Hall identified herself as a people person.
"You meet all kinds of wonderful people, and if you help them look good, it gives them confidence to go out and find jobs or get married or whatever the case may be," she said.
Hall enjoys being located in Clayton.
"There’s a few more tall buildings, and there’s a lot of people, but it is like being in a small town. I can walk down the sidewalk and run into people that you know, and everybody waves," Hall said.
Hall hopes that being in Clayton and on the street level will give bring more people into the Sip Salon.
"I wouldn’t mind if people go, 'Oh yeah, I know where that place is, I’ve been there.'"