Reba's Hair Designer Plus

Reba Gaitan (middle) started Reba's Hair Designer Plus in 1967. Her daughters, Bunny Kelly (right) and Vickie Montes (left), followed in her footsteps to work along with her. The salon and secondhand store has closed after 52 years of business in Hanford. 

HANFORD — Reba Gaitan has seen them all: the beehive, the pageboy, the mop top, the shag. 

Bangs. Braids. Pixies and perms. 

But after caring to the hairdos of Hanford for over half a century, Gaitan has closed up shop for good. Her daughters will begin moving every salon chair and hair dryer from Reba's Hair Designer Plus this week. 

The salon, which offered haircuts, waxing, manicures, pedicures and more at 603 N. Irwin St., will officially be closed after 52 years of business. The secondhand store next door, which was run by Gaitan’s daughter Vickie Montes, will be closed after 22 years of business. 

“It’s sad; I don’t want to quit,” Gaitan said. “I loved it. I didn’t want to quit working. I just liked talking to people and giving them a hug. Some of (my customers) don’t have anyone or any family.”

When Gaitan become sick last year, Montes and her siblings helped pitch in to keep both the store and salon running. But when Montes had a heart attack in June, she knew it was time to end the family businesses, she said. 

Gaitan first started styling hair when she moved to Kings County to follow her sister, who used to own a salon in Hanford called Paris Beauty Shop.

“I used to chop and pick cotton, and then they said, 'Hey, machinery is taking over that and pretty soon you won’t have a job, why don’t you go to a beauty college?'” Gaitan said. “So I went with two of my cousins from Avenal.”

And she never missed one day of school, Montes said. When the opportunity to start her own business came up, she was hesitant, but finally opened the doors of Reba's Hair Designer Plus on Oct. 1, 1967. 

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Gaitan’s two daughters, Bunny Kelly and Montes, followed in her footsteps. Kelly began her cosmetology career when she was still a senior in high school and continued for 12 years until she moved to Tulare. 

“Bunny started working with my mom and I said, ‘Oh I’ll try it and see,’” Montes said. “Then I found out I liked it. So I’ve been doing it for about 42 years. Gosh, it doesn't seem like it could be that long.” 

Around 22 years ago, Gaitan and her husband, Gilbert, purchased the building next door to the salon. Montes began to stock it with antiques and other items to create a secondhand store. An open archway went between the two businesses, so customers could visit both easily.

Some days, Gaitan would start work at 7 a.m. and wouldn’t leave until 10 p.m. It was because she was always talking to people and would seldom turn down a client. 

The salon and secondhand store quickly became a gathering place — a haven for conversation and friendship. Children would run freely, always eager for a hug from Gaitan.

“It was very nice working there,” said Pat Hall, who worked at Reba’s as a cosmetologist for 27 years. “Reba was very good to me and working in that salon was like being in the salon in Steel Magnolias. Everybody that would come in there could sit and visit, drink their coffee and tea and eat donuts, just have a good time. It was like one big, happy family.”

Once the building is cleared out and renovated, Gaitan and her daughters plan to lease out the space. 

An era might be over, but Montes will forever remember the salon’s loyal clients, some who were customers for 50 years, and the happiness that was inside the glass doors on Irwin Street, she said. 

“She’s done so many people’s hair in town throughout the years,” Montes said. “She loved it. Everybody was family. You hugged everyone, you talked to everyone, you would never ignore anyone.” 

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