Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Beauty shop portraits April 10, 2015

Portraits # 16 and 17: Charlotte and Fonzie

Charlotte Lurken

Charlotte Lurken

Typically, I would not enter a salon unless in need of a hair cut.

But it was the “gifts” part of Colleen’s Salon & Gifts on West Concord’s main drag that drew me into her shop in the summer of 2011.

Colleen Snaza's dog, Fonzie

Colleen Snaza’s dog, Fonzie

And therein I photographed Charlotte and Fonzie, whose portraits stand as favorites among the thousands of images I’ve shot through the years.

I captured a slice of small town life. A place, a woman, a dog. Ordinary. Yet extraordinary. It is the everyday that matters most to me as a photographer.

Even now, year’s after taking these portraits, I still like to study them, to focus on the details—the smile on Charlotte’s face as her eyes linger on Fonzie, whom I dubbed “The Beauty Shop Dog;” Charlotte’s polished toenails; the messy stashes of magazines and tilted hairstyling books; the puzzle of floor coverings; the woman’s tennis shoe poking into the scene on the left…

There’s so much to see, and appreciate.

Colleen may call this a “salon.” But to me, this will always be a beauty shop. For this place defines beauty, small town style.


This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


An urban spa in Elysian November 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:03 AM
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OCCASIONALLY, I RUN across something that strikes me as odd/out-of-place/unusual/interesting/nonconforming.

I strung those similar words together because I couldn’t decide which one perfectly fits the business name in the photo below.



Shylah's Urban Spa is located next to American Legion Post 311 in Elysian.


“Why would I categorize this business title as an oddity?” you ask.

Well, because Shylah’s Urban Spa is located on Main Street in Elysian, a town of 580 residents located northeast of Mankato along Minnesota Highway 60. Elysian doesn’t exactly qualify as an urban community even when its population swells during the busy summer tourist season.

I could guess why Shylah inserted “urban” into her spa name. Perhaps the word choice relates more to the atmosphere and experience than to the small-town location.

Shylah’s Urban Spa is, according to information on the city of Elysian website, a “Unique salon offering all the latest trends! We offer all hair services, nail services, massage, permanent cosmetics, eyelash extensions and hair extensions.”

Now, I have never been to a spa. But, if I was to patronize one, I would expect to find those services. So if Shylah wants her customers to think they are in New York City or Minneapolis or even Mankato, instead of Main Street Elysian, that’s fine by me.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling