The moment that transformed the career of hair stylist and Twin Cities beauty salon entrepreneur David Wagner happened in the 1980s. A regular customer revealed to Wagner two days after a style that she had previously planned to commit suicide after the hair appointment – but she chose not to after a half hour with him. She felt better about herself after those few moments, and she sought help instead.
After that, Wagner, a world-renown hair stylist who founded Juut salons, started treating all his customers as if they were the one whose life might be forever changed. He started to think of his work as "day-making" – making people's days.
"I held them that same way, with that kind of reverence, that man, you could literally change people's lives in this 45-minute appointment," Wagner said.
In a conversation with BringMeTheNews founder and CEO Rick Kupchella, Wagner on Thursday told that story and others about his humble beginnings and the growth of his business career. The interview was part of a Smile Network-sponsored monthly event that highlights the work of Minnesota business leaders.
Wagner said he grew up in Hastings, Minn., on a hobby farm, the son of a blue-collar pipe-fitter. "I was about as far away from the beauty world as you could get," he said.
Wagner said he never thought about hair styling until he was 14 and he visited a salon for the first time – and found the place filled with rock-and-roll music and beautiful women.
"That was it. It was like going to Hollywood for me. I loved the energy. I loved the creativity. And then the guy cutting my hair told me about the brand new white Corvette that he just bought, and I thought, 'They make money, too.'"
Here Kupchella and Wagner swap stories about Wagner's mentor, Horst Rechelbacher, who in 1977 was giving $100 haircuts with a three-month waiting list:
At age 26, Wagner saw a "for lease" sign go up in a shop window at Lake and Hennepin in Minneapolis – and that became his first salon. Here he also talks about how he built his beauty empire, and how he came up with the name "Juut:"
And that story of the moment that transformed his career: