Veteran hairstylist Robert Brown didn’t like the things he was seeing – new hires couldn’t even rinse a permanent relaxer out of clients’ locks – so he and his wife, Tracy Brown, enlisted other African American salon owners to open a school of cosmetology in south Sacramento.
“We would get young people coming in that spent $20,000 or $15,000 for their hair education, and they couldn’t do anythin,” Brown said. “They now have a loan of $10,000. They’re here at my salon, and I know for a fact that they wouldn’t have made it if they had gone to another salon. They’d quit right away and do something else.”
Brown said students told him they faced a couple of challenges at their cosmetology schools. First, their instructors were not well-versed in doing black hair. Second, the clientele were generally white, so most of their training was done on hair with a different texture than the clients they were now seeing. Ninety percent of the time, Brown said, hairstylists are going to serve clients whose hair texture is like their own, so they should be doing a lot of training at caring for that type of hair.
This incongruity bugged Brown, who with his wife owns the Another Look salons in Elk Grove and Sacramento. One night in 2012, he said, he woke up at 4 in the morning and asked his wife to name a few salon owners she felt were operating at the top of their game. By October of that year, the couple had settled upon Carnette and Maurice Burnett of Bia Salon in Sacramento, Sharie Thompson-Wilson and her sister Tonya Wilson of DreamGirls Fine Hair Imports and Salon in Elk Grove and Los Angeles, Keinya Beasley and Randolph Johnson of Hair Addictions Design Studio in Rocklin.
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“We were summoned by Mr. Brown to his home one night,” Thompson-Wilson said. “We went to his house. He pitched the idea, and we were all on board.”
The salon owners have ponied up a combined $160,000 in cash to get MIXED Institute of Cosmetology off the ground at 5950 Florin Road. They have been leasing the 4,000-square-foot space for a year, Brown said, because the state required them to have a business address before they could apply for licensing. The MIXED mantra is “Salon Ready,” Brown said, so they are focusing on building a reputation for turning out highly skilled graduates, not on making a ton of money. Tuition is only $3,000. The owners are projecting they will make only enough income to break even in the first two years, but they say profits will come as the school proves its worth.
Thompson-Wilson said she hopes students also will see that it’s possible for highly skilled hairstylists to earn the type of income that allows them to make cash investments in enterprises like MIXED. This isn’t a “hustle;” it’s a profession, said the 16-year industry veteran. Even before she totes up income from her two salons, she said, her salary from her clients alone exceeds $150,000.
MIXED began classes Feb. 25, so it will be another month or so before students have enough hours of training to work on customers. As is typical of beauty schools, MIXED will offer services at sharply discounted rates: shampoos and flat irons for $20 and haircuts for $7, for instance.
Adios, Celia’s; hola, Rodrigo’s
Customer’s of Celia’s Mexican Restaurant in the Rosemont area are now seeing visible signs of an ownership change that actually began three years ago.
Minority owner Rodgrigo Zamora, who has run day-to-day operations of the eatery since it opened in 2005, bought out the Rodriguez family’s stake in the business when patriarch Rafael Rodriguez Sr. retired several years back. He continued to pay a franchising fee to use the Celia’s name, but last year, he decided that he had learned enough to go out on his own. He changed up the menu recently and renamed the place Rodrigo’s Comal at 9584 Micron Ave. The staff in his kitchen are the same people, and they’re excited to be putting their own accents on dishes.
To emphasize the point, the 34-year-old Zamora brought out a queso fundido with chorizo on a clay comal – a traditional Mexican griddle – he had made in his home state of Jalisco. While the cheese in this dish is the authentic Oaxaca variety, Zamora now buys his ingredients from local markets.
“They used to send everything from the Bay Area,” he said, “and prices were Bay Area prices, so I had a really cool idea to change the menu. Now, everything is cheaper, of course, because we buy everything local.”
Zamora said he is still friendly with the Rodriguez family, who own about a dozen Celia’s restaurants in the Bay Area. They also still own the majority share of the building where Zamora’s new business is based, and they have approved of his plans to change up the look of the restaurant. He had an artist from back home paint images to remind Zamora of home, Mesoamerican ruins and a giant wood-fired comal. He is weighing bids on a project to put a patio out in front of the restaurant, and he’s going to lease out at the rear of the restaurant to a bank. The bank will create a new entrance, seal off the space and place an ATM in the spot.