It's Friday morning, and six stylists and two owners at the uniquely named Christ Did It All Beauty Salon are holding their weekly prayer meeting.
Religious emotion runs high some mornings. To these women it makes perfect sense to combine gospel with grooming.
In the words of stylist Charon Bynum, "You don't have to go to church just to serve the Lord. You should serve the Lord from the time you walk out the door."
Arona Price, a new client, says, "I just came in the door and I took off my coat and started praying and I am very comfortable with it."
Workers and clients alike were drawn to the salon by Jackie Best, who says the concept came to her in a dream: "I feel my calling, number one, is to do hair. I love doing hair. I decided to have a Christian salon. I felt I could help a lot of people to be an inspiration to the community."
Jackie says she got a lot of teasing, kind and unkind, about her business idea. She was even warned away from it by her beauty school. But, she says, nothing swayed her. "I can't say, 'well, Lord, I didn't do the things you called me to do because my cosmetology books state that if I do, it's going to be a problem.'"
Combining religion and cosmetology may seem odd or out of place to many, but not to Russell Adams, chairman of the Afro-American Studies program at Howard University in Washington. "These beauty salons we're talking about go back decades, even back to the slavery years, because the beauty parlor and the church were the two places where African-Americans male or female felt most free," Dr. Adams says.
While the salon fits a cultural tradition, it makes good business sense. One study shows that African-Americans outspend other ethnic groups three to one on beauty products. Adams says, "The disproportion amounts of income spent on personal items, clothing and hair, and so on, in the black community, is a sign of one's pride in one's self," Adams says.
But for Jackie Best and her co-workers, hitting the right strategy for a target market may be beside the point.
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