May 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Grey House Salon near 87th and Center streets is called that because it’s gray in color, and it’s shaped like a house.

In fact, it was someone’s house many years ago.  The remnant layout reveals a kitchen, living quarters, and bathrooms.

The house was converted into a beauty salon more than 20 years ago, and was known as Sheer Madness for decades before being vacated a couple of years ago.

When business partners Carmen Stukenholtz and Lacey Ward started looking for a place to open their own salon last year, they remembered the large “Sheer Madness” sign they saw numerous times while driving and sought out the mid-century style house.

“Originally, we wanted to call our business ‘Trust Me Boutique,’ but our lawyer discovered that Nebraska law prohibits businesses from having ‘trust’ in their name because it is misleading,” says Stukenholtz, who worked with Ward for 13 years at another salon before the friends embarked upon becoming business owners together.

There is, indeed, a law from 1924 on the books that states there can be no use of the word “trust” in an LLC.

“We remembered the house, and once we saw it and toured the inside, we knew it was what we wanted. It had a crazy vibe that was different from everything else we saw. It wasn’t generic,” Stukenholtz says.

They bought it, and then painted it gray.

“It’s memorable and easy to find. When we tell people how to find us, we can just tell them to look for the gray house.”

Before opening last summer, Stukenholtz and Ward—along with their husbands and friends—spent two months removing outdated fixtures and décor dating back to the ’80s and ’90s to modernize the salon.

The bulk of the work was strictly cosmetic.

In addition to painting the outside of the building its distinctive gray color, they pulled up carpet and put in new flooring; replaced the work stations with new, sleek mirrors, sinks, and chairs; gave each room an individual paint color and feel; converted the reception area into a plush, gender-neutral environment (they have a large male clientele as well as serve children) with comfortable seating and surroundings; and even found new uses for bathtubs that remained from when it was someone’s house.

“In the bathrooms, my husband covered the bathtubs with plywood and created interesting planters to lighten up the rooms and make them feel more like home and provide some green space,” Ward says. “It’s been a great location for us. We really put both of our personalities in the paint colors, décor, and furnishings. It feels like home.

“We really wanted the interior to have a very comfortable, home-like feel to it, which is one of the biggest reasons we chose this house rather than renting space in a strip mall. Everything we did here, we did ourselves. We wanted this to be an extension of our homes.”

Both women say owning their own business has been simultaneously rewarding and terrifying.

Despite the uncertainty of being responsible for the livelihoods of themselves as well as three other stylists and a front desk manager, they remain committed to their dream and are excited to enjoy the continued growth of their business past this first year.

“Our first goal is to always do the right thing by and for other people, including ourselves,” says Stukenholtz, adding that they are planning some sort of celebration July 31 to commemorate their first year of operation.

“When you have people depending upon your business decisions so they have paychecks to support themselves and their families, it makes you evaluate everything very carefully,” she says. “But we are so excited to be running our own business. It’s something Lacey and I talked about for years, and now we’re living it. It’s a dream come true.”

Visit thegreysalon.house for more information.

From left: Lacey Ward and Carmen Stukenholtz

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Editor’s note: Ms. Stukenholtz’ name was originally misspelled as Stuckenholtz.