Chuck Kelly. The name is iconic within the Coast salon business; a frequent suggestion to newcomers looking to enhance their image; and a trusted stylist to an extensive list of clientele spanning nearly three decades.
Known for his keen eye, innovative ability and signature techniques, Kelly keeps his appointment book filled with about 20 clients a day at his salon spa in Gulfport. Although it’s a demanding profession, Kelly thrives on fulfillment from the creative process and considers it a blessing to be surrounded with a “huge family of great relationships.”
“My life is servicing all my wonderful clients, interacting with my amazing staff, and dealing with the demands of operating a business,” he says. “It’s nonstop from the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave. It’s intense, but I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.”
Such an active schedule begs the question: Does the renowned stylist ever retreat to a place of quiet solitude for a little relaxation? The answer is no, and Kelly definitely prefers it that way.
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“I just can’t sit still, and anyone who knows me knows I can’t sit still,” Kelly says, laughing. “During the work week, I am indoors all day, 12 hours a day. I suppose that’s what drives my necessity to be outdoors and my nature to be active. The intensity of my workload demands that in order to recreate and regenerate, I find the more intense my recreation is, the more effective I’ll be. It’s not enough for me to just rest on the weekends.”
By the time Friday rolls around, the pursuit for outdoor adventure begins. Whether he’s traveling to the Florida Panhandle to visit his girlfriend, Amy, or hanging around the Coast with friends and family, you can find two things in the back of his truck — a bicycle and a paddleboard.
Kelly was introduced to the water sport a couple of years ago when he was driving through Florida and noticed the beaches full of people navigating the Gulf while standing on a paddleboard, which is wider and more stable than a surfboard. Before long, he and Amy bought the necessary gear and began hitting the water any chance they got.
“The cool thing about this sport is it can be an adrenaline rush by surfing or riding waves, or if in a lake or river where it’s very calm, it can all of the sudden transform into one of nature’s Zen-like experiences,” Kelly says. “Don’t be surprised if you begin to see beach vendors rent these. It’s fun, very easy to use and a great workout.”
In fact, Kelly enjoys paddle boarding so much, he is teaming up with the local company, Gulfport BoardSports in Edgewater Mall, to possibly host a racing event on the Coast this summer.
When he’s not in the water, you can find him occasionally playing a round of golf or training on his bicycle for an upcoming 100-mile multiple sclerosis fundraiser ride in San Diego — 15 to 20 miles a day during the week and 45 miles on Sundays.
“There’s something really cathartic about an adrenaline rush,” Kelly says. “It’s purging. There’s absolutely no way any other issue in one’s life and in one’s mind is happening at that moment and quite a while after. It truly is the ultimate escape.”
If the weather isn’t cooperating, Kelly doesn’t let idle time rob him of any leisure. Dabbling on the acoustic guitar or cultivating his passion for cooking brings just as much enjoyment, especially for his guests if a great wine and the regularly requested wild mushroom risotto is on the menu. His culinary philosophy is simple: Food is enhanced by wine, and wine is enhanced by food.
The balance of work and play is essential for the young-at-heart hairstylist to be his best, and no one knows the man behind the shears better than his two children: Charlie, 22, a student at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and Claire, 19, a student at Ole Miss. They not only have grown up in the business, but also have inherited their father’s spirit of adventure.
“My dad is ageless. He’s almost 50 and has more energy than I do,” Charlie says, laughing. “He maintains a good balance and has good core values. No matter how grim things are at the moment for him, he’s always able to have a sense of humor and laugh about something. Just being around him and seeing how he handles things has rubbed off on me. He’s a good example of how to live a good life.”
Claire is the avid traveler in the family, and at such a young age, her passport is already full with stamps from France, Spain, China, the Bahamas, Scotland, England, Ireland and the Netherlands. She credits her dad for opening her eyes to see the world.
“I’ve always liked his free spirit, and he instilled that in me and my brother,” she says. “My dad is a pretty cool dude, and growing up, every day was different, every day was an adventure, every day was fun and interesting, and you never knew what you would wake up to in the house. I loved my childhood because he was so creative, and that has a lot to do with the person I am today. The apple has not fallen far from the tree, and I’m blessed with many opportunities, thanks to my dad.”