From the comments on her Facebook page, Lynda Jordan was an inspiration to her students and colleagues.
Since 1995, Jordan owned Napa’s Le Melange Academy of Hair and Esthetics, Napa’s only cosmetology school.
“I feel so honored to have attended such a wonderful school that led me to the path I’m on,” wrote one commenter.
“Thank you for giving me a wonderful foundation in esthetics that has now lead me into nursing,” wrote another.
“Lynda … set the foundation that has given me an incredibly successful career. Thank you for changing my life,” wrote another.
Sadly, Jordan passed away “after her long battle with cancer,” according to an April 7 post on the Le Melange Academy Facebook page. The exact date of her death could not be confirmed.
Besides the loss of a business owner, it also means the future of the city’s last cosmetology school looks uncertain. Le Melange Academy is located at 931 Coombs St. on the ground floor of the Native Sons of the Golden West building.
According to Matt Woodcheke, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, during the first week of April, the agency was notified by a representative of the school that the sole proprietor of Le Melange Academy had passed away.
Woodcheke explained that U.S. Department of Education regulations require that in such a situation the new ownership structure must be announced, or a notice of closure issued, within 10 days of the event.
“It is the Bureau’s understanding the school will close,” said Woodcheke.
That means Le Melange students are now left to find a way to recover their tuition costs, access academic and financial records and research other cosmetology schools to transfer to.
During a brief phone call on Tuesday, Ed Miller, Jordan’s son-in-law, said “We know nothing” about the future of the school. Miller said Jordan’s business is now in the hands of the trustee of her estate. That person has not been publicly named.
A message left on the school’s voicemail was not returned.
As of Friday afternoon, the school remained locked and empty. “NO ENTRY,” read signs taped to the doors.
Woodcheke said the California Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Student Assistance and Relief coordinated with the school to host a workshop on April 9 to help students understand their rights as a result of the school closure.
According to Woodcheke, there are an estimated 30 active students at Le Melange, plus another 15 students who were enrolled within the past 120 days of the closure but did not complete the program.
Those students are eligible to apply for federal loan discharge, receive reimbursement from a fund by the state called the student tuition recovery fund and the right to request a transfer to another school, he explained.
Those who left the school more than 120 days ago and before completing the program are likely not eligible but should contact the Office of Student Assistance and Relief anyway.
Following the workshops, “we take a case management approach with each student individually. We will work with them to help their financial or academic records, research new schools, fill out forms and paperwork for the various financial restitution programs,” he said. “We want to work with them to help them secure their academic and financial future.”
According to the Le Melange 2018 course catalog, total tuition for the cosmetology curriculum at the school was $21,984. Total tuition for the esthetic curriculum was $10,500 and tuition for the manicuring curriculum was $6,279.
The loss of Napa’s last cosmetology school “is going to be huge,” said Robert Ortenzi, the former owner of Vintage Academy of Hair Design.
There used to be three cosmetology schools in Napa County: Le Melange, Vintage Academy of Hair Design, a Napa Valley College program run by Vintage Academy of Hair Design and Napa Beauty College.
Napa Beauty College closed. The Napa Valley College program was eliminated due to budget cuts.
In 2011, a chain called Marinello Schools of Beauty bought Vintage Academy of Hair Design. In 2016, Marinello closed all 56 of its campuses in five states after losing federal funding over allegations of misconduct.
That left Le Melange as the only option for aspiring Napa County cosmetology students.
Such a closure is unfortunate, Ortenzi said. Without vocational education training people to work in the community, “it’s going to be harder to find a quality stylist,” he said.
Local salons won’t have the normal rotation of new stylists coming into the workforce, he said. “All salons are going to be hurting for stylists to fill open spots.”
“It’s not easy to start a cosmetology school by any means,” Ortenzi said. When Ortenzi owned Vintage Academy of Hair Design, he was training 180 students a year.
“There are so many things you have to do to make it work,” including meeting the requirements of multiple agencies and accreditation boards. “It’s a tough industry, with lots of oversight.”
Besides the loss of new stylists, it will also be harder to find trained workers to fill jobs at tourist-serving businesses like day spas and country clubs, Ortenzi noted.