A History of Amber’s

Characterized by its excellent hands-on education, fantastic service, and its sleek, modern appearance, Amber’s Beauty School is not your average space.  Large graphics adorn grey walls, along with eye-catching pops of yellow, welcoming all to its cozy, yet industrial style feel.  Amber’s is easily one of the sleekest, most modern facilities in Muncie.  Clients are greeted by friendly faces, talented students, and comfortable surroundings.  With a student base in the mid-50s, Amber’s has steadily been growing since its new business owners, Brian and Brook Shrieve bought the company four years ago.  Yet, Amber’s did not begin this way – passed down as a family business, Amber’s Beauty School is rooted in humble beginnings, and small-town community.

We sat down with Butch Shrieve, former owner of Amber’s Beauty School and Brian’s great-uncle, to uncover the history behind Amber’s.

Tell me about the founders of Amber’s.

The name “Amber” comes from Amber Hunter.  She went to beauty school in Hillsboro, Il in the late 20s, and then decided to open her own school in Vandeleigh, Il.  Later on, around 1927, she decided to move the school to a larger town – Alton, Il on the Mississippi River.  At this time, the school was called Central Illinois School of Beauty Culture, and it was located on 401 Henry Street.

Amber’s brother, George, had a job working on the railroad.  He decided to go to beauty school because the beauty industry was stable in the 20’s, at the time of the Great Depression.  He graduated around 1928.Amber’s sister, Marjorie (Butch’s mother) also wanted a part in the beauty industry.  Instead of attending beauty school, she received her education through apprentice training, which is about 2,000 hours of working in a salon.

 

The Central Illinois School of Beauty Culture was extremely successful – in the beginning year they did 1,000 machine permanents (now known as perms), and 999 the next year!

 

A machine permanent.

Why did Amber’s move to Muncie? 

Amber’s moved to Indiana in 1935.  The Indiana Beauty Board suggested South Bend or Muncie, and Amber and George picked Muncie because it was on the same railroad line George worked on.  In 1936, the name was changed to Amber’s Beauty School.  At this time, the school was located on 803 E. Washington Street, and was owned by Amber, Bell Casey (Amber’s sister), Marjorie, and her husband, George Shrieve.

George, Marjorie, and their son, Butch, outside of Amber’s on E. Washington Street.

Are the other locations in Illinois still in existence? 

No, everything in Illinois is gone.

How important is the idea of family to Amber’s? Family is the backbone of the business.  It’s been passed down to family members, and we love this industry.  When I was young, my family lived above the school, so I was raised there.  In 1956, I attended beauty school, where I met my wife, Patricia.  We worked for Amber’s and owned the business together for 52 years.

How does the community affect Amber’s, and vice versa?

Well, I’m 75, and I’ve lived here all my life.  Amber’s has made a huge contribution to the community, with probably around 5,000 graduates trained in Jay, Blackford, Randolph, Henry, Madison, & Grant counties.

Far left: Pat & Butch inside Amber’s in the 1960’s.

In 1982, my wife Pat and I opened a new school location on White River Boulevard.  We trained vocational students and well as regular students.  We were busy back then – we had about 150 students at a time, about 250 customers in a day, and 13 instructors on duty.  One day we did 92 perms!What I’ve noticed about this industry is that it runs on a cycle.  About every 15 years it peaks, then evens out, then peaks again.  Now, the opportunity to make money is better, because clients come in every once in a while and splurge, instead of once a week.

What is your secret to success?

You’re gonna get paid, so don’t worry about that.  Your job (as a hairdresser) is to make people feel better about themselves.  Hair is so important to women – I remember seeing women come in with a hospital bracelet on their wrists!  Also, your business and your employees have to have a personality.  The most successful employees are the ones that connect with clients.

Clients from a Style Show in the 1970’s
Amber’s now – making people feel good about themselves!

What are you most proud of in regards to Amber’s?

Beauty school is an art form.  Many students are into it – and they have a passion for it.  At Amber’s, we are able to do a good job with the training and keep the cost down, way below other schools.  Also, we have extremely loyal clientele.  Some have been coming in for more than 50 years!