From the beginning, Mitchell’s has been different. In the early 80s, you could take some time out for yourself for a cut, color, and perm—and maybe a chat with your stylist—but salons focused on just one thing: hair. But when my mom, Deborah Mitchell Schmidt, opened our first location on Montgomery Rd, she saw the need for something more—a luxurious experience to nurture beauty from the inside out.
In 1983, 40 years ago today, my mom opened Mitchell’s for hair, skin, and nails with ten employees—a risky venture for a young, single woman with an accounting degree, a stable corporate career, and no cosmetics training. My grandpa thought she was insane. He would call her every Sunday to ask how many cars had been in the parking lot that week and to make sure she wasn’t entirely off her rocker in those early days.
My mother was not one to do anything halfway—she had an unmatched work ethic. Not only did she launch and run a successful salon that year, but she also started the first education program in Cincinnati for new stylists that consisted of both theory and hands-on curriculum. That commitment to education is still a pillar of our company today.
I was born just a few short years after she opened the salon. Basically, my mom had a toddler-aged business and a newborn human child. Did she slow down? Of course not! That year she added Cincinnati’s first tanning bed, which was always fully booked. And she grew the business exponentially to the point where all the stations were filled for 12 hours a day—designers and stylists tag-teaming the stations from 9 am to 9 pm. She never stopped growing. She added more locations across Cincinnati and expanded the brand by opening Pump Salon in 2000.
She did all this while raising me in the business, literally and figuratively. Even as a little girl, I would do jobs around the salons. I had more formal roles as I got older. And let me tell you, she gave me no slack because I was her daughter. I wanted to go to a concert in high school, but I had to work. She didn’t go into mom mode to indulge my desires, and she didn’t use her power as the big boss to give me that night off. She’d say, “what does your boss say?” Leaving the decision to whoever was my direct supervisor—and gently reminding me that I had responsibilities that I couldn’t shirk on a whim. She had a killer work ethic that she was determined to pass on to me.
But it was never a given that I’d step into her shoes one day. My mom insisted that I get professional experience outside of Mitchell’s—and then decide to join her team someday if that was the right move for me and the business.
I left for Bloomington after high school, earning a degree in marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. I graduated at the peak of the recession in 2009. All companies were rescinding offers because everyone was on a hiring freeze. I couldn’t find a marketing job, so I took a job in the buying department of Vera Wang in New York City. It was loosely related to fashion marketing, and I loved shopping. It ended up being a very expensive learning experience! And not one I could afford to keep doing. So, I decided to move home to Cincinnati. I found a job with an agency in town that was doing a lot of work with P&G. I was a project manager liaison between their marketing department and their advertising agencies. It gave me a lot of exposure and experience. I learned a lot and loved it.
They promoted me fairly quickly and moved me out to Philadelphia because they opened up a new account. They wanted me to be part of the opening team. I was young and single, so I left Cincinnati again for this great experience. As much as I loved it, I kept feeling like that wasn’t where I was meant to be.
My heart was at Mitchell’s—that’s my extended family. I asked my mom if there was an opportunity for me to come back. She had it in her head that I shouldn’t come back until I was 30—I was only in my mid-20s. So, she wasn’t sure it was the right move but trusted me when I said I was ready. I moved home and started working in our marketing department. I started working on my MBA at Xavier University. I was at Mitchell’s full-time and going to school at night. I never took anything for granted.
I’ve been working my way up ever since.
When my mom got sick, my partner, Mike Batchelor, and I took over the helm, though my mom was still there to guide us as we moved along. We were recovering from our COVID closure, which presented its own set of challenges. Mike and I worked as a team as we navigated the days together, which we still do. I also was pregnant most of this time—my youngest baby was only three months when she passed.
Thank goodness for the surrounding corporate support team because they helped immensely as I grieved my mom, took over the business, and nurtured a newborn while also parenting my other two littles. The care we share within our walls is truly special.
It’s been about a year and a half since she passed. I am not going to pretend it hasn’t been hard to grieve that loss while spending forty-plus hours working on the business she built. But I am my mother’s daughter after all. I’m working hard but, as a mother myself, I am trying to model her commitment to me and the business, giving myself grace and space to make the right decisions for both halves of my life.
Plus, it helps to be surrounded by the fantastic team we have here—I am so grateful for that. It’s part of the reason why I am focusing on cultivating a culture where everyone who works with us, and everyone they serve, feels connected to Mitchell’s and to each other.
We’re charting a course for our future that stays true to our values—and my mom’s legacy—while evolving with thoughtful, careful vision. The recently completed remodel of our Hyde Park location is a perfect example of what’s to come. We’re proud of that beautiful space.
Looking ahead, Mitchell’s will always be a place where employees are family. Where they can pursue their passion and continuously learn and hone their skills. A place where they know they are valued as people, not just revenue generators for our bottom line. They are celebrated and supported.
Mitchell’s will always be a space for clients to take time for themselves in a casual yet luxurious environment. They, too, will feel a sense of community and walk away feeling like their best selves inside and out.
On behalf of everyone at Mitchell’s Salon and Day Spa and Pump Salon, I’d like to send a warm thank you to each of you who have been part of our story over the last 40 years. I look forward to continuing on this journey together.