HELENA, Mont. – Lane and Janet Mathis have plenty to be thankful for during the holiday season.
“We actually met at a hairdresser’s convention,” laughed Janet, reminiscing about the couple’s first encounter.
Four decades later, the Mathis family has turned that chance meeting into a successful, locally owned business venture in Futura Lane, their Aveda Concept Salon, which offers “a relaxing and caring environment.” Their shop sits on North Cooke Street in Helena.
“I’ve been in the business for 46 years,” said Lane. “We opened up in 1984, the salon here, my wife and I did, and we’ve come a long way since then. We’re still married and having a good go of it.”
What began in a basement has become a staple in the Helena community. Futura Lane routinely serves the same clientele, with website testimonials boasting Lane and Janet “are like family.”
New guests quickly learn one of Futura Lane’s signature features — the salon’s no tipping policy.
“One of the things I’m most proud of that we’ve done is kept a small, homey-like atmosphere in our salon and our no tipping policy. We donate all our tips that people want to tip, we hold them and donate them to local charities,” explained Lane. “We’ve been doing that since we’ve been in business since 1984. That’s the thing I think I’m most proud of is that we give back to the community, and in so many ways it’s enhanced our life.”
The list of local beneficiaries is long. In fact, Lane and Janet struggled to remember each of the many charities when put on the spot, but mentioned the likes of The Friendship Center, Helena Food Share, Montana Hope Project, NAMI and the St. Peter’s Cancer Treatment Center.
They estimate the donations in the range of tens of thousands of dollars.
Futura Lane has brought Lane and Janet Mathis gratification over the years, but they admit they have seen their share of struggles, particularly during the past couple years.
“Last year during the pandemic, we had to close down for quite a while,” explained Lane. “We were lucky enough to receive the (Paycheck Protection Program) loan and the (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) which helped us. We didn’t have to go on unemployment, so we could keep our one staff member paid and keep us paid.”
But a worldwide pandemic was only a small portion of the Mathis family’s concerns.
“About six months before, I started having trouble with my throat and found out I had cancer caused by the human papilloma virus, which took them a long time to find,” said Lane. “I was out of commission from last summer to Oct. 1. I had 35 radiations and three massive chemo treatments at the hospital, and I lost about 80 pounds.”
“I didn’t die, but I could see death from where I was at,” he continued. “I’m not back all the way yet, but I consider myself a medical miracle, a success story. I’m really lucky to be here; I look at things a lot differently.”
“I had to step up, that’s what you do when you’re married” said a misty-eyed Janet, who said she had a quick lesson in bookwork — a task Lane had previously handled. “We had so many friends help us, people who stepped in and did all the cleaning for me on the weekends. We had some of our clients, two of our clients come in and actually made all the phone calls for us. … All of our clients were extremely kind and understanding when appointments had to be moved.”
The Mathises fought back tears when discussing the support they received from family and friends, but there’s no doubt Lane and Janet would offer the same support in times of need. That’s the kind of relationship Futura Lane has created between cosmetologist and customer.
“I think that’s what we call being blessed,” said Lane. “People are like family when they come in. …We’re all growing older together, and it is like family. They all get a little teary-eyed when they think of us talking about retirement, and we get teary-eyed when we talk about that, but I say, ‘When we retire, we’ll go out to dinner and do more things like that and get together.'”
“The outpouring of letters and help we got when Janet was off with a broken leg or when I was out with cancer last year, these people really are family,” Lane continued. “It’s unbelievable. We’re so blessed.”
Futura Lane — Lane, Janet and fellow cosmetologist Cheyenne — takes great pride in its services, be it a simple haircut, a color or a complete makeover. Customers leave Futura Lane with a new beauty and fresh feel. But there’s no denying the salon will always be known for its commitment to the Golden Rule — treating others as they prefer to be treated themselves.
“I think the reason I go back to a business, I think when they call you by name and they’re like, ‘Come here you old coot you. Come in here and give me a hug,’ you know?” said Lane. “That’s what people do here. We call them by name, we ask about what’s going on in their life. When (businesses) make me feel warm and welcome, that’s when I want to go back. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is or how big it is, it’s that feeling of belonging like you’re part of a crew or group, you know?”
“Included,” chimed Janet.
“Included, yes. Very good,” agreed Lane. “And live every day like it’s your last because you never know when you’re going to wake up and it is your last. I felt like that this whole last year. I’m still here, I’m still kicking and I’m very lucky.”