“You know, they always say that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Wright said, adding that, for her, cutting hair is that job.
Wright has loved the art of cutting and styling hair since she was just a kid.
“I started hanging out at the beauty school when I was in third grade,” she said. “I’d get my chores done on Friday night and then I’d go to the beauty school. I got to sweep hair and fill the pop machines. I’d clean the brushes, empty the trash and arrange the magazines. It was fun stuff.”
Wright was born in Arab, Ala. When she was 4, her family moved west to Carlsbad, N.M.
“[My dad] had asthma so he had to move West,” she said.
During her time in Carlsbad, Wright realized how much she enjoyed spending time in the beauty shop. But somehow, Carlsbad didn’t feel like the right place for her to settle.
Ten years later, Wright’s father was offered a job as the lead chemist with the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company Potash plant in Moab.
“I knew when I came to the Moab valley, I was home,” she said.
Wright spent the next several years in Moab and she graduated from Grand County High School.
“I loved going to high school here,” she said.
Wright made friends with several other girls in the high school who came from similar backgrounds.
“When you move to a town like Moab... you make your own family,” she said. “I think, to all of us, our friends are more friends than our family.”
After graduating high school, Wright headed to Colorado Springs, Colo., where she attended cosmetology school. Once she finished school, she decided to try something different, and headed for the bright lights of New York City, N.Y.
“I still can’t believe that my mom and dad let me go,” she said. “My dad was really an adventurer. He loved to see new places and new things. So I’m sure that he was the one who told my mom that they really needed to let me go to New York.”
Wright spent a year in New York City, doing odd jobs to get by.
“Then, one day I decided I was homesick,” she said.
She called her parents, and they sent her a plane ticket home.
Wright then got her first job as a hair stylist, working in a salon in Grand Junction, Colo.
“I was so young they wouldn’t let me walk... back to my apartment,” she said. “Then one day Frances Jones showed up and asked me to come to work for her.”
Wright moved back to Moab to work at Jones’ salon, the Beauti Terrace. Over the next few years, Wright again left Moab for a little while. But the community always seemed to call her home, she said.
Wright worked at the Beauti Terrace until 2001, when she was finally able to fulfill her dream of owning her own salon. She had her eye on a little shop – the Hair Safari on 100 South – for quite some time.
“I used to drive by here and think, if that little place ever comes open, I’d really like to have a shop in there,” she said.
When the former tenant decided to move, Wright jumped on the opportunity to start her own business.
Wright said that she’s never regretted the decision to open Laura’s Hair Safari, though she enjoyed working for Jones and misses many of her former co-workers.
“The way I see it, I get to visit with my friends all day, every day,” she said. “You get attached to people.”
She said that Moab has been very good to her.
“In Moab, you have loyal customers, and they just become part of your family too,” she said.
Wright’s shop is filled with statues and pictures of African animals and rituals: most of which have been given to Wright by friends and customers. “When people go somewhere, they’ll pick something up for me,” she said. Many of the figurines have a story behind them. Wright still doesn’t know who gave her one of the giraffes that adorns her shelves.
“Some man called me one night, and he said, ‘Hurry! Quick! Hurry! Your animals are getting out,’” she said.
Wright thought that he was nuts, but when she went out to get in her car she found the statue of the giraffe waiting outside.
“I thought it was a prank call,” she said.
Wright said that in the past her shop has been compared to the beauty shop in the 1989 film, “Steel Magnolias” – except for the catty gossip in that movie.
“We don’t gossip,” she said.
She said that many of her customers come down to Laura’s Hair Safari just to visit with one another, and often, she’ll have as many as six different women all sitting around, chatting.
“Sometimes people get lonely and just need somewhere to go,” she said.
Despite the long hours on her feet, Wright said she doesn’t know when she’ll want to stop cutting hair.
“When the good Lord gives you an opportunity, you should take it,” she said. “He might not give you another chance.”