50 years of styles: Moorhead woman celebrates half century in hairdressing

Hairdresser Judi Kruger is an outlier — her career as a beautician has spanned more than 50 years, far longer than the average amount of time people spend in a job.
Judi Kruger has been a beautician for 53 years and still has some of the same clients. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Judi Kruger has been a beautician for 53 years and still has some of the same clients. Chris Flynn / The ForumChris Flynn / The Forum

MOORHEAD — Do you remember your first job? How about your second, third, fourth or eighth?

In an August 2017 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, on average, a person will change jobs about 12 times during his or her career. Many workers spend five years or less in any job. In January 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average amount of time men spend in the same job was four years and a few months, while women spent four years.

However, Judi Kruger is an outlier. Her career as a beautician has spanned more than 50 years, with perhaps another 50 to go.

Kruger began learning her craft as soon as she was finished with high school, commuting from her hometown of Hawley, Minn., to Josef's School of Hair Design in Fargo, where she learned the tools and tricks of the trade.

"I graduated from high school in May and I started beauty school in June," she says. "I went until February and got married in February, so I didn't go to work right away. About three years later, I went to work for Plaza Beauty Salon."

Kruger worked for the same woman for 35 years — through several business name and location changes — before deciding to bring her skills closer to home in 2001.

"I came home one day and said to my husband, 'So, do you suppose we could move the driveway?' and he said 'Well, let's go see,'" she says. "We could, and we put the driveway over here, moved the garage door over and my son and I built an addition."

Quiet time

Kruger now works at her salon in her little yellow house tucked back into a neighborhood in north Moorhead.

"I am at the point now where I do (take on new clients), but I don't want any headaches," Kruger says. "I just love what I am doing now. It's fun."

Kruger says she likes that she can choose what she wants to do, saying that crazy colors and requests can become too much.

Judi Kruger gives her niece a cut and color at her salon in Moorhead, Minn. Kruger has been a beautician for 53 years. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Judi Kruger gives her niece a cut and color at her salon in Moorhead, Minn. Kruger has been a beautician for 53 years. Chris Flynn / The ForumChris Flynn / The Forum

Before her shift to a more relaxed work life, Kruger says she had more than 250 clients, fitting their appointments in between each other like an intricate, hairy jigsaw puzzle.

"I used to put a color on and cut someone's hair, wash the color out, cut their hair," she says. "I used to do twice as many people in a day as I do today. But now it's a haircut and color and we sit and have coffee."

Cheaper than a therapist

Sitting in the salon chair can be therapeutic, too. Getting the attention of a stylist for hours at a time gives her regulars the opportunity to open up and reveal things they probably wouldn't otherwise.

The many years Kruger has spent behind the chair has allowed her to learn things about her clients, and their families, that many others wouldn't know.

"I do husbands and wives, and, you know, you don't always repeat to the wife what the husband has to say, and vice versa," she says, explaining. "Because sometimes, they just need to get it off their chest."

Judi Kruger dries her niece's hair who came in for a cut and color. Kruger has been a beautician for 53 years. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Judi Kruger dries her niece's hair who came in for a cut and color. Kruger has been a beautician for 53 years. Chris Flynn / The ForumChris Flynn / The Forum

But, just as the hair falls away after being snipped by her shears, stories and insights into her client's lives get swept up and forgotten as soon as the floor is cleaned up at the end of their appointments.

"I don't know, it's just been good," Kruger says. "They're all good; they're more friends. I said I have to keep working because otherwise I wouldn't have anybody to talk to."

Her clients keep her busy three days a week, with some of them keeping her busy for more than 40 years. She has seen multiple generations of families in her chair over her 50-plus years, with many of them coming to her from the beginning at Plaza Beauty Salon.

"They moved with me," she says. "I worked for the same person for 35 years. Her business moved three times. When I moved here, I don't think I lost anyone."

Judi Kruger schedules an appointment at her salon in Moorhead, Minn. Kruger has worked as a beautician for 53 years. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Judi Kruger schedules an appointment at her salon in Moorhead, Minn. Kruger has worked as a beautician for 53 years. Chris Flynn / The ForumChris Flynn / The Forum

Kruger says she looks forward to many more years of styling, great conversation and coffee with friends.

"Some of my clients have asked me (how long I'll be cutting hair) lately," she says. "They say, 'How long are you going to be cutting hair?' I say, 'Well, until I can't.'"