Just ‘One Flight Up’ from the turtle pond at the Key Estero Shops, Susan Krajewski has been cutting, coloring and styling hair since 1993. Her reputation as a hairdresser is stellar, but the high regard in which she is held in the beach community isn’t just about shags and pixie cuts.
Susan’s story begins in Kokomo, Indiana where she and her two siblings grew up. When she was fifteen, Susan was her sister’s Maid of Honor. Her sister’s husband had his own brother stand as Best Man. His name was Bart, and he was 25 years old, which seemed ancient to the teen-aged Susan. They had very little in common, and neither was terribly interested in the other.
Around this time, Susan had a sister-in-law who was a hairdresser. “I was doing art classes in high school – I was going to design clothes. My sister-in-law talked me into going with her to the salon one day and, I don’t know, I just liked what I saw.” Susan talked her father into letting her go to beauty college between her last two years of high school. “I promised him I would do it for fifteen years if he would support me on this idea.” She kept her promise, and then some.
In 1967, Susan got her high school diploma on June 2nd, and her certification from beauty school on June 22nd. She landed her first gig in a salon when she was eighteen. “When my friends all left for college that fall, I was already working.” She stayed on that job for five years.
But after her divorce from her first husband, Susan decided she needed to be closer to home with her daughter, so she opened her first salon, adjacent to her house. It was very common in those days to see this set-up in small towns and cities all over America. She kept that shop going for about nine years.
And then along came Bart Krajewski back into her life. It had been a dozen years since he and Susan had seen each other at the wedding. “We ran into each other at my sister’s house after all that time. And the rest is history,” Susan observes with a wistful smile. Bart and Susan were soon married, he with a son from his previous marriage, and she with a daughter from hers. “We moved to northern Indiana; we decided to start all over, blended our kids together. We bought a cottage next to my father’s lake cottage, on a little lake, and started our life together.
I went to work for another gal up there for a couple of years, and then opened my own shop, and always had at least two people working for me there.”
Susan Krajewski’s got game; she has always worked hard and taken care of herself and those who work for her. Her new husband was no slouch either. “After I met Bart, I never held just one job. He owned several restaurants and nightclubs, so I would help with that. We owned a pizza parlor, a grocery store. Bart was a boxing coach too. I told him I wanted nothing to do with that, and within two months I was a judge for amateur boxing events!” she reveals, seemingly astonished by this herself. The pizza parlor was popular with some of the young kids in town, and some of them got into some trouble. Being the generous and community-minded folks they were, Bart and Susan had to do something to help those kids. “We ended up being assistant house parents at a boys’ home,” which doesn’t surprise Susan’s client Sally, a former receptionist at the salon, in the shop this fine Tuesday morning for some styling. “She has always been like that.”
The Dynamic Entrepreneurial Duo moved to Fort Myers Beach in 1993, after vacationing here a few times. “I had a client who owned a house on the beach. We rented it one Christmas and we fell in love with it, and began vacationing here until we knew we could move.” Soon after moving here, Susan found One Flight Up. Carol Myers was the owner at the time, having opened for business in 1986. “I came to work for her in the fall of 1993. I bought it from her in 2000.” Carol and her husband became lifelong friends with the Krajewski’s, taking vacations and celebrating holidays together.
Carol is still one of three hairdressers on staff at One Flight Up, the others being Molly, Pat (and Susan, of course). Nail tech Jessie is one of the newest members of the One Flight Up staff, and she is happy to be working with Susan. “I have great respect for her – she is my role model. I am very proud to work for Susan; she stimulates my growth, because I want to be a better person.” Two receptionists – Vicky and Lori – round out the One Flight Up family that Susan has brought together in the salon.
After fifty years of cutting hair, we asked Susan about the changes she has seen in her profession. “Hair cutting hasn’t changed all that much, but the hair products have changed a lot.” The different procedures have come and gone – trends cycle through. “I started learning to do razor cuts; then it was all scissors; now it’s all come back around. Styles that we saw years ago come back only with some tweak to it.” Like, up-do’s used to be sleek; now they’re supposed to be ‘messy’.
Susan says she still loves being in the hairdressing business. When her beloved Bart passed away a few years ago, Susan found that her work and responsibilities helped her get through the very hard beginning of this next chapter in her life. She loves the variety of people who come into the shop from all over the country and beyond. “My experience here has been positive. The business has been great. We have been very fortunate here on the island.”
If you have ever attended a fundraiser in our town, you have probably hoped to win a beautiful basket from One Flight Up full of hair products and gift cards, each one lovingly assembled by Susan herself. She has always been active as a volunteer for various causes. “I guess I feel like I have to give back to all the people who have helped me.” Susan says she has absolutely been helped a lot in her life. “I feel very fortunate that I’m where I am, and I think I need to share.”
Beyond her strong work ethic, her love of her family and friends, her volunteerism and her subtle but ever-present humor, Susan Krajewski is nothing if not full of gratitude for the good life she has been able to make here, where next month she will be celebrating her 50th Anniversary in the hairdressing business. “I just have to thank the community for all the support. They’ve supported us for a very long time. We love them all.”
One Flight Up Salon, 1661 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach is open 8am-4pm Tuesday-Friday and 8am-2pm Saturday. For more information call 239-463-4247.