Story and Photo by Kerry Phelps Dale

Coming up on the three-year anniversary of the opening of his Middleburg hair studio, Salon 17 South, Ray Trader speaks fluidly about hair styling, running a business, Middleburg and his treasured clients all while finishing up a customer’s hair.

“I came to work in Middleburg at Blue Studio six years ago,” he explains, “and after three, I knew it was time to have my own salon again. I’ve been a business owner my whole life. I needed to open my own salon.” Ray came to Middleburg via Alexandria where he received both training and experience. “I started shampooing in my uncle’s salon to make some extra money.”

Soon after, he quit his day job. “The monotony of the government job didn’t suit me.” What has suited him is the salon business which he finds both challenging and interesting. “It changes all of the time,” he says. “I trained under some of the best hairdressers in Washington, including my uncle.”

Life circumstances caused the salon owner to take a step back in order to take a leap forward in his life and he moved to Leesburg “for a fresh start.” It wasn’t long before he landed the job at Blue Studio and started cultivating a loyal following of clients.

Salon 17, a two-chair hair salon, currently only offers hair services. However, Ray’s long-term plan is to make it a day spa. First, he wants to add nail services. “I could keep the technician busy full time,” he says. Then, space permitting, facials and massages would be added.

Ray makes his home in Winchester with his youngest son and his two cats, a calico and a barn cat adopted from a farm in Upperville. At home, he puts on his handyman hat. He loves to refurbish and flip houses by bringing them back to life.

“I like to work with my hands—fixing and building, creating art and furniture from old pallets.” Evident in his life from himself, to his adopted cat, to the houses and salvaged materials he works with, Ray is a believer in second chances.

His commute home through Ashby Gap, over the mountain and the Shenandoah River, past vista after stunning vista, gives him time for reflection. “I love the drive—it’s beautiful and peaceful. It gets me ready for a work day or helps me decompress at the end of the day. It gives me time to think.”

This article first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.