After working in a grocery store for 20 years, Sheila Paige was ready to start a new career in Southern California. It was 1994, and she had just graduated from court reporting school. But those plans changed quickly when her sister, Michelle Scott, told her about a beauty salon for sale in Oakhurst. Michelle, a hairdresser at the salon, told Sheila that the shop would close if a buyer could not be found soon.
Paige had two months to make the biggest decision of her life - to leave the hustle and bustle of Southern California, and start a new life in the small town of Oakhurst.
After praying about the transition, she decided to give it a try, quitting her job and selling her big car for a smaller economy car. On Jan. 2, 1995, with very little money, a single credit card, and no formal training in the beauty salon business, she started her first day at her new business - Oakhurst Beauty Supply and Hair Designers Salon. This week she is celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the business.
She remembers the first day she opened for business like it was yesterday.
“I looked around with tears in my eyes and thought, ‘What am I doing here and how do I make a business out of something I know nothing about?’,” Paige said.
Paige said she is a very determined person who likes a good challenge, so with help from her sister and supportive parents, she started building up her stock of beauty supplies, and getting to know the needs of her customers.
After about two years, she met her husband, Fred, who was born and raised in Mariposa County, and worked for the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department for 32 years. He had two boys when they married, the youngest five years old, whom Paige helped raise.
Over the years, Sheila has experienced a few setbacks. She helped care for her father for 10 months after he suffered multiple broken bones following a crash landing. A year later, her mother suffered a heart attack, then her brother, who was suffering from depression, ended his own life.
“This is something you hear about, but don’t ever think will happen in and to your family,” she said. “This was such a heartache to me and my family. Something faith and years help lessen the pain, but one never totally gets over it.”
The following year, Fred fell off a ladder and broke his hip, and about a month later Sheila slipped and broke her leg. They finally both healed and went back to life as usual. Then, on the morning of Dec. 26, 1999, Fred was involved in a head-on collision after swerving to avoid another car stopped in the middle of the road. He had to be rescued by the jaws of life and spent 20 days in the hospital. He underwent three surgeries for two broken femurs. He finally returned home but had to spend three months in bed and was off work for a year.
Her father was a private pilot. He had flown back to Mariposa from a days trip. On his way back to Mariposa airport, he had engine problems causing him to make an emergency landing on Highway 140. He almost made a smooth landing on the Highway, when the wings clipped the trees, causing him to flip over and crash. He managed to make it out alive, but broke bones from head to toe. She helped her mom take care of him for the next 10 months, still running her business.
Then about a year later, the next hurdle would be her mother having a heart attack the day before Halloween. She was in the hospital recovering, when her brother, who was suffering with severe depression, ended his life.
The morning after Christmas, Dec. 26, 1999, their house all torn apart from celebrating, Sheila Paige drove her husband to the vehicle maintenance yard to pick up his patrol car and bring it home to wash before going to work. She dropped him off and said she would see him home after she stopped at the store to get a newspaper. As she was leaving the store, she saw many police cars passing by at a high rate of speed. She says, “I don’t know why, but I immediately thought that I hoped he had not been in an accident or whatever had happened was big and maybe they would ask him to help out.”
So she drove home, didn’t see his car in the driveway, came in the house and no messages from his work on the answering machine. She stated that her knees started to tremble as she made the call to the sheriff’s dept. They answered and asked her to hold. When they returned to her call, she asked if Fred had been in an accident. They told her yes. She stated to her horror, she asked if he was alive ... They replied that they did not know. She says she drove back towards town, when came upon the accident. Apparently, he had swerved to miss another car that stopped in the middle of the road and went head on with another vehicle coming the other direction. The firewall had come upon his legs pinning him in his car. The jaws of life was needed to get him out after about 45 minutes. He was then flown to Modesto Trauma Center where they spent the next 20 days in the hospital. He had three surgeries for two broken femurs. He came home and again a hospital bed was placed in the living room for him to recuperate. He would spend the next three months in bed and off work for a year.
Sheila says she doesn’t know how they got through that year and still maintained her business.
“Wow, was this ever a test of our faith and perseverance,” she said. “He healed after lots of exercise and went back to work for another seven years. He couldn’t get enough of the job he so loved, so he chose to go back and work for them again to the present.”
Later, now that their children were grown, Sheila decided that she wanted more children. After being unsuccessful at becoming pregnant, they became foster parents with the intent to adopt a little girl. Instead of a little girl, they found themselves adopting two little boys and a few months later they were also able to adopt the boys’ sister.
Five years later, a 17-year-old girl, who was in a group home, asked if they would take her in as their foster child. They agreed to give it a try. That year after she graduated from high school and turned 18, she would be out of the system and on her own. She asked them if they would remain her family. Sheila and Fred agreed. A little over two years ago she had a baby. They helped her through her pregnancy and Sheila was there as her coach to have this baby. They then became the surrogate grandparents to a wonderful baby girl.
“Life for this young mother, as a single mom, was a struggle,” Sheila said. “She started having some struggles in life and having difficulties to overcome all her struggles.”
It was then that they were presented with the decision of raising the baby. Now, they have added a beautiful, sweet two-year-old to their family.
Sheila said that they feel God had a plan for them when this young girl was brought into their lives, but they didn’t know what exactly it was. After this baby was born, they figured out that this was what God’s plan was for them. Sheila states that her parents helped her to be the person she is today by the great upbringing she had. They took her to Sunday school from a young age where she learned about God. They gave her lots of love and support and taught her to work hard. She also learned a very important part of business is great customer service.
It was during all the upheaval of their lives that Sheila became even more happy with her decision to move to a small town.
“My customers were so awesome and supportive during these tough times,” she said. “Only in a small town would you experience this kindness.”
Oakhurst Beauty Supply and Hair Designers has been her child for the past 20 years.
“I am a people person and love being able to serve my community with their needs in this area,” Sheila said. “I love talking to people and have been able to help many people who have come to my shop over the past 20 years. I try to give my customers the best customer service possible, whether they spend $1 or $100. I strive to carry the latest products or will research to find them if necessary. I feel that all these things, great customers and definitely my faith in God has helped me to stay open during these hard economic times.”
Oakhurst Beauty Supply also has a full service salon.
To thank her many Mountain Area clients, Paige is offering specials, raffle prizes, make overs, and treats Feb. 9 - 14 at her store. Featured will be her new line of Natural Cosmetics and Essential Oils with samples, demos, makeovers and more.
Details: 40108 Highway 49, Oakhurst, (559) 683-0277.