Head turner calls it a day
Founder of Woodford’s Training Centre embracing retirement
By Chris Lewis | July 23, 2020
There are few people in Newfoundland who have turned as many heads and fashioned as many styles as Sharon Woodford.
That’s because as the operator of the Woodford Training Centre in Kelligrews, she has been responsible for training many of the province’s hair stylists and barbers.
Woodford opened the centre in August of 1995. Next month, as the final class of students graduate, Woodford will close the centre and retire after a successful run of 25 years.
It has been a great ride, she said, but it’s time for her and her husband to move on to the next chapter of their lives.
It was in February of 2020 that Woodford said the decision really solidified in their minds, after the record-breaking snowstorm that hit the province the previous month. She described watching her husband Bert, 72, work tirelessly to ensure the entrances stayed clear of snow and ice, and make sure the various other tasks were maintained. She realized they both deserved a break and a chance to enjoy the life they worked so hard to achieve.
The building is large, and for the entire time that Woodford’s Training Centre has been in its current building, Bert has been the go-to guy for maintenance. As the two grew older, those things became more taxing.
“He’s a stubborn man,” she said with a loving tone. “When you see him up on the top of a ladder at 5:30 in the morning changing lightbulbs at 72-years-old, all it takes is one slip for things to go terribly wrong.
“I’ve been working for 52-years now, without much of a break,” she added. “We decided then that this would be it, but we never ever thought there would be a chance to sell the (building) so quickly.”
At the time, selling the building proved to be a fairly easy task. After putting it up for sale in February, there were negotiations ongoing within the following couple months. However, as if Snowmageddon had not damaged the province’s economy enough, COVID-19 struck soon afterwards. Woodford said that only a few days prior to the close of the sale the buyer pulled out, fearing the global pandemic’s affect on his finances.
So, it was back to square one.
But because of that anticipated sale, Woodford Training Centre did not accept any new students beyond the ones that were already attending.
“So that kind of backfired,” Woodford said, adding that all they can do now is keep their fingers crossed that someone will pick up where the first buyer left off. “In August I plan on retiring. Thinking that the sale was pretty much guaranteed, I sent off applications from students to the other schools. So, if someone doesn’t buy it, it’s going to be a real shame because there’s just going to be this big empty building.”
Although the building may be empty, Woodford’s heart is not. She said she has an entire career’s worth of memories to look back on fondly. On average, the Centre took in some 40 students each year, and of all those, Woodford can count on one hand the number of bad experiences she’s had.
Woodford said she has been blessed to work in a field she adores for her entire working life. Prior to establishing her own school, Woodford taught at the College of the North Atlantic for 10 years. She loves looking back at all the people she’s taken under her wing and watched grow in their own careers in the industry.
“It’s been a nice run, I must say,” she said.
Woodford’s students have won national and international skills competitions, and many have established hair salons of their own.
“I just love hairstyling, and I love being around so many young people. They say that if you hang around the young folk long enough, you won’t get too old yourself. Hopefully that’s the truth,” said Woodford, laughing.
She’s also had the chance to work alongside her daughter, Lisa, who has been teaching at the centre for the last 20 years or so.
“We’ve had a great time, but now it’s a bit scary to think about what’s next,” Woodford admitted. “We have down-payments on a new place to live, with everything set up and done. And then it all just crashed. But the thing is, nobody could prepare for this. There was nobody that could have seen this coming … Who would have thought we’d be living in a global pandemic back in the beginning of the year?”
Although she said she’s not entirely sure what the future holds, Woodford is confident someone else will see the opportunity in the fully outfitted training centre.
“I’ve got a few butterflies, but you know what? Tomorrow is going to come regardless. So, you’ve got to roll with the punches,” said Woodford, smiling.