Kenilworth, Community

Hair Apparent: Longtime employee ensures Kenilworth’s Hairsay Salon is here to stay

Kenilworth’s Hairsay salon has withstood the test of time for 27 years, providing service that has proven to be a cut above. 

Founded and owned by Glenview’s Ilene Leon, the business operates on the simple principle of putting people first. Further proving that point, on Jan. 4, Leon confidently handed over the reins of the business to her longtime employee, Carolyn Stoll, knowing that Hairsay will continue to thrive

“When I first met Carolyn, a little over 14 years ago, I asked her one question,” Leon shared. ‘Cubs or White Sox?’ When she chose the Cubs, I hired her on the spot.”

Little did Leon know that her new young, bubbly and energetic employee would become such an icon at the salon. Along with being exceptionally talented at her craft, Stoll shared Leon’s same business philosophy, making the two best of friends, despite their nearly 30-year age gap. 

Hairsay opened at 554 Green Bay Road in Kenilworth in 1997.

“Before I met Ilene, I almost left the industry,” Stoll said. “There was a lot of cattiness at my last place of employment. I began to think that this wasn’t the business for me, but all that changed when I stepped into Hairsay.”

The pair compare Hairsay to Cheers,  “It’s a place where literally everyone knows each other’s names,” Stoll said. 

Along with cultivating the type of environment that retains clients through the decades, Hairsay’s employee retention rate is one to be applauded. 

“They never leave,” Leon said. “It truly fascinates me.”

For example, their legendary receptionist, John, who Leon describes as one of the smartest humans she knows, has worked at Hairsay for 22 years.

“We would be lost without him,” Leon said. “Funny, he came for the interview at the suggestion of a friend, vowing he’d never work at a salon. Well, we clearly changed his mind.”

When Leon and Stoll reflected on the low employee turnover rate, in unison they proudly declared “we are a family.” 

“See? We can finish each other’s sentences and take the words right out of each other’s mouths,” Leon laughed. 

Leon also shared that providing benefits reflects her business philosophy. 

“It was always important to me that my employees had what they needed to plan for the future and take care of themselves,” Leon said. 

Stoll said she couldn’t agree more and has already made moves to take payroll, investments, benefits, scheduling and more into the 21st century. 

“Hairsay has always been a cash and check kind of business, but we are moving on with the times, making it easier for our clients to navigate all aspects of Hairsay,” Stoll said.

Stoll is also developing the website and stepping up their social media presence through Facebook and Instagram

For Stoll, becoming a business owner is in her blood. Many of her family members owned their own businesses, so it’s a walk of life with which she is familiar. She knows that being a business owner is an honorable responsibility. In fact, Stoll, Leon and the entire staff of Hairsay said the only time they were closed on a Saturday was during Stoll’s wedding in 2016.

“The entire staff dedicated their time to my hair and makeup and then joined us for the celebration,” Stoll recalled. 

While the work often requires long hours and few days off, Stoll wouldn’t have it any other way and has her sights set on growth.

“I would love to see us attract new clients, maybe even grow into a bigger space,” Stoll said. “Who knows. The sky’s the limit but I also want to sit back and embrace all that we have and just enjoy this phase too”

Leon chimed in, “Don’t sweat it, you have 27 more years to make it all happen.”

Hairsay is located at 554 Green Bay Road in Kenilworth. Along with haircuts and color, Hairsay offers nail services and waxing. Stoll and Leon claim that Pam is an eyebrow magician and everyone must come see her.  

“Seriously, it’s like getting a nonsurgical brow lift at Hairsay; come see Pam. Your face will never look better,” Leon said.

For more information, call (847) 853-0022 or email

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Alexa Burnell

Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.

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