RENO, Nev. -- After 48 years in the beauty business, the owner of Bellissima Beauty and Wig Salon is retiring. During those years, he's inspired and helped thousands of community members heal with his wigs and friendly smile.
Alan Squailia comes to work every day ready to make people look good and feel better.
"If you look good on the outside you feel better about yourself and you heal on the inside," he said.
When he was 15 years old, his mother passed away from cancer; Squailia knew from then on that someday he was going going to help patients deal with the disease.
"Watching her have an issue with cancer made me realize that something needed to be done for cancer patients," he said. "I actually helped more cancer patients through this business than I did working in the hospital."
As a survivor himself, he understands the physical and emotional toll cancer can take on victims, but says it's customers like Sherre who make his job worthwhile.
"We're all his customers, we're all his patients because he takes care of us whether we've had cancer," Sherre Carnes Mesker said.
Mesker lost her hair during Chemotherapy and says getting her wig restored her confidence.
"It just gives you sense of renewed vitality, of new strength that cancer isn't going to get you down. It's going to bring new definition in your life," she said.
Squailia says that many patients don't fully grasp the fact that they have cancer until they start losing their hair because it's physically visible.
"They have enough going that they don't need to worry about that part of their treatment," Shawn Quiring, new Bellissima Beauty and Wig Salon owner said.
Women come in here for a number of different reasons from changing their look, to treatment to boosting their self esteem.
"I'm not here to sell a wig. I'm here to help a person and if it's because of a medical reason or if they want to be a blond, whatever the reason may be, we're here to do that," Squailia said.
To him, it's not a nine-to-five job because throughout all these years, the staff become more like a family.
"You work with someone day in and day out, you spend more time with them than your own family," Quiring said. I just admired him from the way he ran his business and the way he treated people...I am honored to be his friend."
The thousands of thank-you cards and visits he's received all week shows just what an impact he has made on the community.
"I feel like I've cheated most of the people who came in here because I got more out of it then they did," Squailia said.
He's now cancer-free and is ready to do some traveling during his retirement.
People can walk of his salon not only with a new look, but also new friends and memories to share.
Today is Squailia's last day at Bellissima. Friends and community members are encouraged to stop by the salon to say their farewells.