LINCOLN SQUARE — Lots of little girls play with dolls as a youngster — braiding, brushing and curling their hair.
Unlike most, Kate Jotzat turned that childhood pastime into a grown-up career, first as a hairstylist and now as the owner of the new salon, Chroma K8 Beautique, 5425 N. Lincoln Ave., which opened in January.
Though just a fledgling entrepreneur herself, Jotzat, who lives in Albany Park with her husband and 2-year-old son, is making an effort to support other small businesses and artists by adding a boutique component to Chroma K8, featuring locally-made goods for sale (hence the word "beautique").
"I'm very into the whole Chicago-flag thing," said Jotzat, pointing to dish towels printed with the distinctive row of Chicago stars.
"I personally love accessories," Jotzat said. "I want my client to have her hair done and then, if she wants, to get a necklace to complete her look."
A number of her loyal customers have already followed her from her days at Red 7 Salon in Evanston, and she hopes to attract other customers who happen to walk past the new shop.
Jotzat, who values the client-stylist relationship, said her clients "can tell me anything — and they do."
A graduate of Aveda's flagship school in Minneapolis, Jotzat is particularly skilled as a colorist and is an expert at working with curly hair — she's been experimenting with her own blonde corkscrews for decades.
"If I didn't have product in my hair, it would look like a Q-tip," she said.
Though she loved doing hair, she tried some other gigs first.
"I suppressed my desire for it," Jotzat said. "I thought I should aspire to be more. Everybody wants you to grow up and be a doctor."
So she trained as a sign language interpreter, and it was a job in that field that landed the Palos Heights native in the Twin Cities.
But with Aveda in her backyard, the lure of beauty school ultimately proved too strong to ignore.
"I really wanted to do hair," Jotzat said.
After finally following her childhood passion, she wound up back in Chicago in 1998 and went to work for Michael Anthony Salon Spa for eight years before moving to Red 7, where she developed the salon's color training curriculum.
Jotzat broke out of the colorist box three years ago when she began cutting hair out of her home. With Chroma K8, she continues to spread her wings.
Though nervous about striking out on her own — "I'm very conservative with my money" — Jotzat said, "I had to take this leap of faith."
One good omen: The storefront on Lincoln Avenue had been a barbershop for more than 40 years before receiving a makeover — exposed brick, hardwood floors — shortly before Jotzat inked her lease.
She added vintage decorative touches — hooded blow dryers and implements like Marcel Wave irons and metal clamps used in early permanent wave processes — that pay homage to the history of hair styling, while remaining rooted herself in modern techniques.
For women, she said ombre hair remains on trend while for men, classic barbering has made a comeback.
"Like Brad Pitt at the Oscars or what's Posh Spice's husband — David Beckham," Jotzat said. "I did that to my husband."
What she enjoys most about styling, she said, is the ability to make someone's day.
"You forget that until you get somebody in your chair who's having a really bad day," said Jotzat, "and then you turn them around in the chair [to face the mirror] and they gasp."
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