Kate McIntosh likes to be surrounded by the beauty of what she loves most — and she finds it in places others might not think to offer a second glance.
“I like to find recycled uses for older things,” she said.
It’s evident as soon as one sets foot inside the space she has worked to curate.
Oversized pieces of proscenium columns hoist up shelving that displays a few well-placed antique decorative items. Below, old piping provides a hanging space for carefully selected articles of vintage clothing.
A giant wall of window panes situated between a front entry room and a secondary room divide the space and help filter the natural light that pours in — further accentuated by the white walls.
Hints of aromatherapy creep in.
The elements help make up the clean and minimal vibe of Kate & Co., a salon McIntosh has owned and operated in the heart of Dubuque’s Cable Car Square for five years, after initially purchasing the building with her father as an income property — the former home of Outside the Lines Art Gallery.
Now, it’s where McIntosh lives, works and raises her two children — Oliver, 12; and Peyton, 15.
“That’s why the sign says ‘Since 2007,’” McIntosh said. “The kids make up the other half.”
The salon specializes in providing organic beauty services, using all-natural products.
McIntosh said the business that began as “trial and error” has found its niche locally, offering haircuts, highlights, coloring, waxing and styling, in addition to manicures and pedicures.
“It’s a great option as a streamlined, express service,” she said. “Have a manicure or pedicure done while you wait for your hair color.”
But ironically, beauty wasn’t always a key interest for the 35-year-old Dubuque native.
“I grew up as a tomboy,” McIntosh said, with a laugh. “But hair was always something I did as more of a hobby on the side and to earn a little extra money.”
She first set her sights on nursing, working as a nurses aide following high school and aspiring to be a traveling nurse.
That’s when motherhood came calling.
“I became pregnant young,” McIntosh said. “And so I needed something flexible — something that would allow me to be there as a mom.”
She returned to her tried and true hobby — hair.
McIntosh pursued her beauty studies at Capri College and eventually dabbled in doing hair professionally in 2005 but as a part-time endeavor.
This year will mark the first complete year that McIntosh has dedicated to a full-time salon.
“It gives me the opportunity to be there for my kids,” she said. “Their father is very helpful, and my father does a lot to help me and help out with the business. He’s the ‘& Co.’ to Kate & Co. But with kids 12 and 15, I didn’t think I’d still be needing to keep quite as close an eye on them. Preteen and teenagers are hard. As women, I think it’s always a struggle to balance a career and being a mom. At least it has been hard for me. But the salon has been a really good thing.”
There is a clear connection between McIntosh’s recycled interests combined with her use of minimalization and natural products. It’s something she believes is becoming more important to a wider array of clients.
“Health is a big part of who I am, and I definitely attract a clientele that is looking for more natural products,” she said. “But I think knowing what’s in a product and knowing what you’re putting on your body is becoming a lot more important to people. People are becoming a lot more aware that it’s not only better for you in many cases, but it can be a lot more economical as well.”
McIntosh said in addition to having the flexibility she needs as a single parent, she also enjoys being at the helm of a business and feeling the support from other female entrepreneurs downtown and particularly throughout Cable Car Square.
She also delights in helping others lead healthier, more mindful lifestyles as it pertains to beauty and their surroundings, believing that less really is more.
“We feel good about ourselves when we look good, and we’re also happier and healthier when we’re surrounded by less — only the things we truly love,” she said. “It’s nice to be a part of that for someone else.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.