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Birk is new manager at Studio 61 salon

Niki Birk loves her job. She's the manager of Studio 61, a salon located on Vermillion Street just south of Highway 55.

"I just like working with people," she said.

Working in a salon also gives her a place to release her creativity.

"You can be as creative as you want with it," she said.

Birk grew up in Hastings and went to school at Aveda Institute. She worked as a stylist for one year in the Twin Cities before the commute became too troublesome and she found a stylist position back home in Hastings.

Seven years later, Ron Battern, the owner of Studio 61, called her and asked if she wanted to take over managing his salon.

"She was a friend of my daughter," Battern explained.

The decision wasn't a quick one.

"It was kind of like a leap of faith," Birk said.

She explained that she had loved her previous job and wasn't sure she wanted to give it up. But a few months later, she accepted the offer.

"The opportunity was there, and I had to take it," she said.

At age 26, Birk has been managing the salon since September, and she's made some improvements to the business.

"She's been a big big impact on the shop," Dawn Hutchins, one of Studio 61's stylists, said of Birk.

Hutchins said Birk has brought some positive changes to the salon, including a higher level of professionalism.

Battern, too, has been happy with his new manager.

"She's really good at taking care of the people," he said.

He also said she's efficient and professional, and has turned the business into more of an upscale salon. Although Battern owns the place, it's Birk who takes care of everything.

"She runs the shop," Battern said. "I own it, but she runs it,"

It hasn't been an easy switch for Birk.

"It's a lot more work," she said.

At first she had a difficult time finding the balance between her work life and her home life. And getting the salon organized in the way she wanted was no easy task either, she said.

But her focus is still on her clients. She loves being able to send people away feeling good about the way they look, and she's gone out of her way to give her clients' hair a helping hand.

Birk once went to St. Cloud to style the hair of a client's daughter-in-law, who was competing in the Mrs. Minnesota pageant there.

And she has no problem offering the same help to anyone else.

"If anyone else ever needed it, I would, no problem," she said. "If I can, I will."

When she's not running the salon, Birk is home with her husband and "very energetic" 4-year-old daughter.

She also enjoys being outside, whether it's going to the park or going for a walk, although she said she doesn't care much for the cold and winter.

Eventually, Birk would like to own her own salon, she said, and Battern said he's ready to hand Studio 61 to her when she's ready.

"It's gonna be her shop sometime down the road," he said.

Battern, 71, has owned the salon for more than 30 years. Most recently it was known as The Barbers. Battern changed the name two years ago.