Hundreds of red, white and pink plastic rose petals floated across the floor Tuesday at Impressions by BJ salon in Danville.
Wall hangings espousing “Love” and vases filled with ruby-red fountain streamers greeted customers bustling in for free services, as if Valentine’s Day had arrived early.
But spreading the love is a year-round affair at Impressions by BJ, which recently was honored by Matrix in a nationwide contest recognizing the most giving salons that carry Matrix hair care producs.
Matrix representatives and salon employees credit the success of Impressions to owner BJ Pemberton, 58, who built her life with a big heart and talented hands.
“I just feel like, when you’ve been blessed, you have to give back,” she said, tearing up a bit. “I don’t cry. This business is just really close to my heart. I think everyone should have that passion.”
Pemberton’s fondness for hairstyling began when she was growing up in Casey County with two brothers and a single mother.
“We didn’t have much,” she said. “But I can show you a doll that I gave a really cute bob.”
With little money to spare, Pemberton’s mother never spoke to her children about attending college, and Pemberton started her family with husband, Earl, when she was 18.
The couple had three children — Alex, Vanessa and Jeanna — in the ’70s. Then BJ Pemberton decided to make a career for herself.
At first, she considered becoming a nurse. But as fate would have it, the program was full, so her mother offered to pay the $800 tuition to beauty school.
“I feel like it was God’s way of telling me to be a hairdresser,” she said. “When I got there, it was like it was meant to be. I couldn’t get enough of it.”
Upon graduation, Pemberton worked at Hairport in Junction City for a few years before opening her own salon there in the ’80s.
Her children were staples there, helping clean and work the front desk. But oldest daughter, Vanessa Mackey, had her eye on a spot behind the chair and often brought friends to the salon for makeovers.
“I’ve loved this business ever since I was like 2,” Mackey said. “I could make beautiful blondes when I was 12.”
In the ’80s, Pemberton moved her business to Danville, where she tried several locations before opening her dream salon on Baughman Avenue, where Impressions by BJ is today.
“It was probably the proudest moment of my life, proud as in feeling like I had something to share in life with people,” Pemberton said.
Impressions by BJ is relaxed but impeccably clean, professional but never intimidating.
Stairs in the lobby lead to an upstairs apartment where Pemberton keeps the refrigerator stocked with food for her employees and a bedroom gives her a place to crash on late work nights.
“I love this business, and that’s just a requirement sometimes,” she said.
Mackey also works in the salon, and the mother-daughter duo strive to make customers, employees and community members feel like they’re part of the family, too.
Once a year, Pemberton hosts a Cut-a-Thon and donates the proceeds to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center for breast cancer treatment and awareness. She also provides free haircuts to the boys at Sunrise Children’s Services once a month.
“It kind of breaks your heart to see 6-year-old boys and they’re so far away from their families,” she said. “But it’s a blessing to get to know them.”
Pemberton’s caring spirit is what led Matrix to choose Impressions by BJ as one of its “Spread the Love” salons.
Out of thousands of Matrix salons nationwide, Impressions by BJ was one of 51 chosen for the honor, said Matrix Territory Manager Allison Mineer.
Mineer recommended about 10 salons in the state to the selection committee.
“But I knew it would be them,” she said. “They’re so nice, and the salon’s so beautiful.”
As “Spread the Love” recipients, Pemberton and Mackey got to attend special Matrix training in Palm Springs and host the free services day Tuesday.
“It’s like getting paid when they stand up and say ‘I love my hair,’” Pemberton said. “It feels that good.”