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thedrifter
11-05-07, 07:16 AM
The business of the ball

JENNIFER HLAD
November 5, 2007 - 12:48AM
DAILY NEWS STAFF

It begins in mid-October.

Ribbon orders start rolling in. Marines drop off their dress blues for alterations. The phone begins ringing off the hook in the hair salons.

It's Marine Corps Ball season, and that means big business for many local shops.

At Shirley's Professional Alterations & Embroidery on Lejeune Boulevard, employees will work longer hours and see more part-time help during the ball season, said owner Shirley Stanley.

Often, the shop does what would be two days worth of work in one day - every day of the week, Stanley said.

The work varies from letting out or taking in dress blues to mounting ribbons and altering formal gowns, Stanley said.

"A lot of guys, when they go away (on deployment) and they come back, they're either extremely bigger or extremely smaller," Stanley said, and that can mean some extreme alterations.

It's the most hectic time of the year, she said, and they have even had to turn some people away because they just couldn't handle the load.

Medals to Honor in Hubert halts all orders for display cases at the beginning of September to make way for the certain onslaught of ribbon and medal mounting orders, said Michelle Holmquist, the business' owner and a retired Marine Corps 1st sergeant.

"We've learned the hard way," Holmquist said.

In August, Medals to Honor starts stocking up on the medals they know Marines, sailors and coast guardsmen will need. Once the rush begins, a night crew preps the medals, while a day crew mounts the medals.

And though deployments have increased, business has not taken much of a hit, Holmquist said.

"We've seen a little bit (fewer) this year," she said, but not much.

The deployments can also mean more late awards and more additions to each Marine's ribbons and medals.

"We're seeing a lot, from the past two years, those that already had the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, now are adding the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign (Medals)," Holmquist said.

While normal turnaround is four days in the off-season, by the last two weeks of October, it is more like 10 days, Holmquist said.

Salons and spas also are packed in anticipation of the ball.

Hairtage Salon & Day Spa on Henderson Drive sees a slew of women looking for updos, manicures, pedicures and other spa services, said Marty Keeley, marketing manager for the salon.

"This is the big social time of the year," Keeley said. "The Marine Corps Ball is bigger than New Year's Eve for the Marines. It's the season."

To prepare, the salon institutes a blackout period for employees: no vacation time, no time off, Keeley said.

"Basically we know that ball season is a big season. But our (employees) get pumped for it, because 60 percent of them are Marine spouses, too," he said.

And women aren't the only ones coming in for a little pampering.

Men have started to indulge in services like massages, facials and waxing, Keeley said.

"More guys are coming in, because they're learning that the spa is a nice way for them to relax," he said.



Contact military reporter Jennifer Hlad at jhlad@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 8467. To comment on this story, visit www.jdnews.com.