By Bill Lauterbach
Imagine being a single mother of a 16-year-old daughter in high school, owning and operating a full-service beauty salon, taking care of a 90-year-old mother, and fighting cancer – full time.
Medically speaking, Mary Fix cannot be called a “cancer survivor,” since she is still battling the disease. Mary says “I will probably never be rid of it because it’s in the lymph nodes. So I’m not in any remission, just stable. But my visits to U of M are down to once every six months.” However, cancer has now become a part of a daily ritual for Mary Fix, owner of “The Fix Salon” in Horton.
After her initial diagnoses of thyroid cancer in 2000, Mary was somewhat optimistic since thyroid cancer is one of the more curable cancers. However, her cancer spread to her lymph nodes and she has since undergone four surgeries and subsequent radiation treatments. Nevertheless, she quickly returns to work just days after each procedure. “You gotta do what you gotta do,” she explains. “I was on the table for seven and a half hours for one surgery, and I was back to work in two weeks. And I was back golfing in about two months.”
To understand how Mary deals with cancer, you have to understand Mary’s personality. No matter what has been tossed at her in life, she will fight through it. For Mary, fighting off cancer is just another one of the many obstacles a person has to deal with in life.
Mary is one of the hardest working women you might ever meet, and she has had an incredible number of successful businesses. “When I bought this (the Horton salon), I had another beauty shop and a bar. The beauty shop was in Dundee and the bar in Kirby, Ohio.” Mary also helped out at a friend’s bar and grill located on U.S. 12 near Somerset Center. At one point, Mary was commuting 300 miles round trip across southeast Michigan and Ohio. A customer jokingly quipped that Mary’s constant travels through the Irish Hills prompted her to audition for “Riverdance.”
Twelve years ago, Mary put the shutters on the salon in Dundee. “My partner at the beauty shop in Dundee retired and she moved to Arizona and we closed it up. But some of my customers down there came up here (the Horton salon) for years. In fact, I had two come in yesterday. I still have customers that come up here.”
Mary also sold the bar in Ohio so she could focus on the renovations of her new salon in Horton, which was designated a historical property. Fix reveals that she has been an entrepreneur most of her adult life. “These aren’t the only businesses I’ve ever had. Before Dundee, I had a tattoo parlor, I had a lingerie shop, a tee shirt shop, a sign painting shop and I had a party supply business, all on the same block in Monroe.”
One would think that with all of Mary’s successful entrepreneurial expertise, she has never worked for anybody else. Not true. “Way back in the day, I was a waitress at every place in Monroe. I was paying for college. I went to Monroe Community College and then from there, to Virginia Farrell Beauty School in Southfield. And I didn’t take out student loans. I worked my way through school.”
Mary says that her experience at Virginia Farrell Beauty School taught her about the diversity of people and their hair. “Since the school was in the Detroit area, we practiced on a variety of ethnicities to understand how customer’s hair can be so unique. Everybody’s hair is diverse; a wide variety of texture and quality. Even senior citizens have their own texture and quality. I like to call it ‘a winter shade of blonde.’”
Mary discloses that she has experienced her own forms of discrimination when first starting out in her entrepreneurial pursuits. “Women weren’t allowed to be entrepreneurs. Oh, and throw being blond in there, too. You get building inspectors, electrical inspectors, you name it, and they say that you have to do this and do that. Or you have to get a permit. No I don’t! Just because I’m blond doesn’t mean I’m stupid! But they take you as you are; they judge the book by its cover. I dealt with it, I sucked it up and went on and made a living at it. I don’t ‘poor me’ – you get up; you pick yourself up and go on. Bottom line; the more positive you are, the better off you’ll be. Don’t sit around or you’ll shut down. And don’t let society tell you that you can’t adapt because you’ve got cancer.”
Mary’s philosophy on getting older is hilarious. “We’re just like old computers. It just takes us longer to retrieve the information in there. It’s there, you know it’s there. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to download, but you’ll eventually retrieve it.”
Mary loves golf. Her favorite golf course is the nine-hole course at Lake Leann. “A young couple owns it; they’ve put a lot of money into the course itself. They are doing the business right. They are doing what’s important first. I like that.” Mary says she always plays 18 holes, and would play 36 if she could get away with it.
Mary invites you to stop in to “The Fix Salon,” located at 205 Main St. in Horton. It is a full service beauty shop. Mary does both men and women’s haircuts, styles and hair coloring. “I can do everything. Manicures, pedicures, facials, permanents, and on my off days I do shut-ins.”
However, be prepared for Mary’s antidotes and the latest unpublished news from miles around. Getting your hair done by Mary Fix is truly . . . an adventure!