Vickie Gregory had a vision when she launched a beauty salon business 45 years ago.
The owner of popular downtown salon and boutique Personal Style has come a long way since completing her beautician studies in a high school job-training program.
And, still not ready to declare mission accomplished, she says she wants to do more to improve options for local shoppers.
"I had a vision and my vision still hasn't been completely fulfilled," she said from her office in between clients.
Although she owns the business that includes a fully staffed beauty salon and boutiques for adults and children, she still puts in 11 hours a day as a stylist despite the aches and pains of arthritis and fibromyalgia.
"I've always had long hours," she said. "That's what I'm accustomed to. I've been blessed with a great clientele. I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have all my ladies and staff who have supported me all these years."
Gregory is meticulous about both halves of the business – the salon and boutique.
"I do all my own shopping," she said. "I like to hand-pick all my clothes and jewelry. I don't like to pick things out of a catalog."
She knows what her clients like and works hard at meeting their desires.
"After you've done this for so long you can look at something and just know that so-and-so will love that so you go ahead and buy it – in her size."
Gregory hits the trade show circuit and establishes rapport with manufacture's representatives.
"I meet with the reps and check quality before I buy. I try to bring in different things – one-of-a-kind items."
Her approach is good for business and, she believes, it's also good for Taft.
"I would like to be able to bring more variety to Taft so people don't have to go to Bakersfield to shop," she said, echoing the lament of many local business people.
"I would like to see Center Street thriving again. I think Taft has so much to offer."
Since starting her first business, Gregory has moved around a bit.
She bought Marvell's Beauty Shop and re-named it Magic Touch.
While doing business in the shopping center on the north side of Finley Drive across from the Goodyear store, a water leak in the adjacent business – a restaurant called Fric 'n Fracs – sent her fleeing.
While sweeping in front of her shop early one morning she noticed the sidewalk was separating from the building.
"That just looked odd so I walked around to the back of the building and the wall was buckling," she said.
Page 2 of 2 - She peeked inside the restaurant, which was closed that day. The floor had sunk a foot or more and the booths – fastened to the wall – were "just hanging there in midair. It was the most eerie sight. I called the landlord and broke my lease. I wasn't going to stay there."
A move to the West Kern Junction shopping center followed before she found her "dream" building a year later.
It had been a popular family shoe store operated for many years by Bob Colston and Vic Borrecco. It later became a pawnshop, then became vacant again and was gutted.
One day when Gregory and husband, Sam, were strolling down Center Street she stopped, looked at it and said, "This is my dream building."
What intrigued her most were the display windows.
"He said, 'well, there's no use looking at that because it's been gutted.'"
But she couldn't get it out of her mind and, during a casual conversation with a friend a few days later, Gregory learned the friend knew the building's owner.
There was a phone call followed by a meeting the next day and Gregory had a new home for her business.
That was eight years ago. She then bought the storefront next door, knocked out a wall and expanded.
And future growth might be in the cards.
"You never know what the future brings," she said. "I can always expand upstairs."
Whether she does or not, one thing's certain:
Vickie Gregory will stay true to her motto.
"We try to give everyone a personal touch. I want to do this as long as I can because I sure love what I do."