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Gresham resident and business owner Jacque Backus' resume includes experience as a counselor, doctor, confessor, and more. That's because hair stylists rarely just style hair. "We do develop a relationship, because we have the ability to touch," Backus said. "And when you touch somebody, you become closer."

After nearly 50 years in the beauty industry, 34 years as a business owner and three salons later, Backus has accumulated a wealth of knowledge when it comes to styling hair. Beyond that, she's developed lifelong friendships and genuine concern for every customer that sits in her chair. "You go through all these different things with them," Backus said. "I have been, through their eyes, all over the world and I've been through with them every ailment you could possibly conceive."

Backus splits her time between Roman Holiday, her salon on Northeast 173rd and Halsey Street and one of two salons located in Courtyard Fountains, an independent and assisted living facility in Gresham.

Regardless, a trip to the salon means more than looking good for Backus' clientele. "It's a social outing for a lot of the people," she said. While the processes for styling and coloring hair have become less complicated and quicker, Backus' clients often rebuff them. "They'd have to go home too soon, they still like the old fashioned way," she explained. Many of Backus' clients have been with her for decades. When she notices them reaching their twilight years, she finds ways to accommodate the changes accompanying the aging process. "We don't mind walkers and wheelchairs," she said. "We go and get people and bring them in if that's a need, especially the ones we've done for a long time.

Bobbie Backus, related to Jacque through marriage and an independent contractor for 26 years says the safety of the customer has always been a top priority at Roman Holiday. "She's constantly making sure it's safe for them from the moment they get out of the car," Bobbie said.

Before Backus opened two locations in Courtyard Fountains in 2001, some of her longtime customers would make the journey over to Roman Holiday. "A number of our residents were actually going to her salon," Courtyard Fountains Executive Director Mary Beisley said. When one of Backus' clients was preparing to move to Courtyard fountains, she encouraged Backus to set up shop in the community. Backus found herself with an unique opportunity to expand her salon to better serve her clients. She approached Beisley about buying Courtyard Fountains existing salon and Beisley said it's been a good fit ever since. At Courtyard Fountains, safety as well as great hair are of equal priority. "It's important for me to see them safe and comfortable," Backus said. "You have to think for them to protect them." In addition to having a safe place to get their hair done, they're also in the hands of an experienced professional. "I think it really enhances their lives," Beisley said. "We all feel better when we look good." In fact, it's that feeling of loving the way you look that Backus says hasn't from when she first started in the industry. The biggest thing that always is the same, is the way we make people feel when they leave," Backus said. They have their confidence because they got their hair done."

Backus' career in hairdressing began in 1961 when her mother, Marjorie, brought her to work on Saturdays as a 12-year-old. There Backus learned the industry by way of sweeping floors and other small tasks. It never occurred to her that she had stumbled onto a lifelong career. "I learned so much from my Mom. She was just a dynamite hairdresser," Backus said. After graduating from high school in 1967, Backus enrolled in the Montavilla School of Beauty and knew she found her niche when classes began. "(High) school was difficult for me," Backus said. "But when I went to beauty school, it clicked. I read everything I could get my hands on and actually graduated with honors."

Backus immediately joined her mom ay Roman Holiday and went on to buy the salon in 1982. Over the years she has served on both the state and national boards, traveling and learning from salons across the country. However, Backus stayed close to home in the Gresham area, where she resides with her husband of 47 years, Allen.

Many of Backus' stylists have stayed with her through the journey, some with tenure as long as 34 years. Bobbie Backus says that as a boss, Jacque is generous in letting each stylist come into their own. "I think it all works together," Bobbie said. "Jacque respects us and who we are and what we have to offer."

Backus is proud of her stylists and says, "I like the hands on part. I like working behind the hair and I really advocate to my hair dressers that the salon is theirs, it's not just mine. I've got a great crew."

Backus has also learned to trust her own instincts. "I think the biggest thing to overcome was to make my own decisions and investigate different things," she said. "Everybody wants to tell you what to do and how to do it, whatever the situation, but I always had to make my own decisions. Yeah, I made some wrong ones, but I've made some right ones too."

During her years of entrepreneurship, Backus has embraced the changes that have come to her profession and the journey she has been on. "You just do it," she said. "I never wanted to put myself into a box. You learn. I would never learn any of it without talking to other people who have done it. I'm not done learning."

Article written for 'Women in Business' by Chelsea Van Baalen of Gresham Outlook/Pamplin Media Group. Photos by Josh Kulla


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