Kristy Sauder, owner of Backstreet Salon, knew from a young age that she wanted to be a hairdresser when she grew up.
“When I was about six, I cut all the hair off my dolls,” she said, “even my Chrissy and Velvet dolls whose hair you could pull out and dial back in. I cut their hair off, dialed it back in, and then it wouldn’t come out again.”
That was in southern California, where Sauder was born and raised. But she found her way to Payson in 1994 by way of Boston.
“It was tough to make much money in the salon business in southern California because there were so many shops run by entire Asian families and they could charge less,” Sauder said. “I was divorced and wanted to make a new start, so I moved across the country with my 3-year-old son.”
She spent four years soaking up all that New England had to offer.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I got cultured. I learned how to cook. With my parents still in southern California, I learned to get along completely on my own.”
Sauder and her new husband moved to Payson to be closer to her parents, who now live here too. When the opportunity came to buy a building that had already been remodeled to house a beauty salon, she jumped at the chance.
Backstreet opened its doors on West Bonita Street seven years ago.
“It was originally a house, then it was converted into a craft store,” Sauder said. “The owner was going to put a salon in, but it sat vacant for two years.”
Over the years, Sauder has seen some changes in the way Payson views hair, and, for that matter, fashion in general.
“When I first moved here almost 10 year ago, Payson seemed to be few years behind,” she said. “Of course, I came from Boston, which is a big, big city. But now I think Payson is up to scale. There has been a lot of influx from California, Phoenix and Scottsdale, and with that comes city style.”
Increased shopping options, she believes, have also made Rim country residents more fashion conscious.
“People can shop on line, Fountain Hills now has a Target that’s an easy trip, and Flagstaff and Cottonwood are also accommodating,” she said.
While shopping options are somewhat limited in Payson, Sauder says there’s no shortage of beauty salons.
“Counting the outlying communities like Pine and Strawberry, there are 26 salons listed in the phone book,” she said. “Competition is good, so the more the merrier.”
But it does represent what Sauder believes to be a trend in the Rim country.
“People will open too many of one kind of business, and not enough of some others,” she said.
With so many salons in town, Sauder says that many tend to specialize in meeting the needs of specific clientele.
“The most common is probably seniors,” she said. “Those salons do more of a shampoo-and-set business rollers, blow drying and curling.”
Sauder prefers to think of Backstreet as a family salon.
“I like to say we cater to everybody,” she said. “We don’t do a whole lot of roller sets, so we don’t have as much of the blue-haired clientele. We also have a couple of young stylists here who attract a lot of the younger kids and adults.”
One of the trends in the world of hair is, in fact, that younger people, and especially men, are visiting beauty salons.
“Back when I was in school, no boys I knew would be caught dead in a salon getting their hair done,” she said. “Never. But now it seems to be the thing to do.”
Besides more boys and men using salons, other trends Sauder sees include a lot of bleaching, spiking and coloring.
“Young kids are getting their hair colored, and there’s also a lot of waves,” she said. “Permanents are coming back in.”
Backstreet also has an “aesthetic room” where facials, hair removals and other skin procedures are performed, using, as Sauder puts it mysteriously, a variety of “machines and products.”
When she’s not wrapped up in the world of hair, Sauder likes to horseback ride with friends in Round Valley and water ski behind her boat.
And while she’s lived on both sides of the U.S., she plans on sticking around Payson into the foreseeable future.
“As long as I’m surviving in Payson, continuing to earn my way, I think I’ll stay. Unless I get thrown out,” she said.
Name: Kristan Louise Sauder
Occupation: Salon owner and stylist
Employer: Backstreet Salon
Birthplace: Los Angeles, Calif.
Family: Son, George, 16; daughter, Cece, 3.
Personal motto: To treat others the way I’d want to be treated and to be successful at something.
Inspiration: Dave Griener at Mountain Bible. He is very inspiring.
Greatest feat: I don’t have one. Every day I try to do a little more and be a little better. That’s a feat in itself.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Lately, horseback riding, but I also like to water ski and the beach.
Three words that describe me best: Strong-willed, determined and fun-loving.
I don’t want to brag, but ... My children are beautiful.
Luxury defined: Good food, cooked and served, a good bottle of wine, overlooking the ocean.
Dream vacation spot: Italy
Why Payson? I like small towns, and besides, Payson has been very good to me. Thank you, Payson.