The first Great Clips salon opened under the name Super Clips near the University of Minnesota campus on September 22, 1982. Great Clips salons specialized in no frills, low-priced haircuts and found immediate success with their first three salons, which opened over a span of three months.
In early 1983, founders Steve Lemmon and David Rubenzer sought out a third partner in Ray Barton to spearhead Great Clips’ expansion and franchising.
The first franchised Great Clips salon opened for business on July 16, 1983, in Brooklyn Center, MN. The company grew from 150 franchised salons in 1988 to 1,000 by 1997. The 2,500th salon was opened in 2006. The first franchisees, Mary Lou Barton (Ray Barton’s wife) and Marylu and Roger Ledebuhr are still Great Clips franchisees today. The Ledebuhrs opened the 3,000th Great Clips salon in 2011.
In 1984, the three owners recruited Rhoda Olsen (née Barton), Ray’s sister, to work for Great Clips part-time as a training consultant to create training manuals and programs for franchisees and stylists. In March 1987, the partners convinced her to leave her position at Land O’Lakes to work full-time as the vice president of human resources at Great Clips.
In 1987, Lemmon and Rubenzer took a step back and named Barton president of the company. Ten years later, in 1997, Barton bought out his partners—Lemmon, Rubenzer, and Jeff Elgin—to become the majority shareholder.
After 28 years as CEO of Great Clips, Barton stepped down in 2011, promoting his sister Rhoda Olsen, who had served as president since 1998. Former executive vice president Charlie Simpson was promoted to president of the company. In 2014, Charlie Simpson retired and Steve Hockett became company president.
In July 2020, Great Clips announced expanded safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its salons.