Last week, I was in desperate need of a new Denman brush. My natural hair/curly girl crew knows what I'm talking about and understands the seriousness of the situation. For those not in the know, let's just say it was a hair EMERGENCY! I thought about purchasing online, but this was the kind of situation where you need to just walk into a bricks and mortar store, get what you need and keep it moving. So, as I thought about what stores might carry what I needed, I went through a quick list of around-the-way beauty supply stores close to where I live and work. As I thought about each of these establishments, I had flashbacks to the Chris Rock film Good Hair. For those of you that didn't catch the flic, there is a part in the film in which Rock talks about how many beauty supply stores which cater to a predominantly African American clientele, are overwhelmingly owned by our Asian brethren.
Now don't get me wrong, my Asian peoples need to make a buck just as much as anyone else and my sistas and I are spending money hand-over-fist on our heads, so why shouldn't they cash in? The problem is not that Asian business owners are the proprietors of these beauty supply stores, it's that fewer and fewer African Americans are able to succeed in this industry. Black business in general are struggling across the country (not to say that anyone else's business aren't). At any rate, as I thought about where I would spend my dollars for a Denman, I remembered a place that I hadn't been in years, but that has been a go-to, a staple in the Black business community in the Boston area for years: Venus Cosmetics. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure who owns Venus. I don't have a clue with what race or ethnicity the owners would identify, but I do know that they have employed Black people for as long as I can remember. That said, I'm not even sure that race/ethnicity should matter in determining where to spend money, but through this thought process, I decided to stop by my old haunt to check out what's good in 2010.
Venus used to have stores throughout Boston and Cambridge, from Mattapan Square to Central Square. Now, only the Central Sq shop remains and it has moved around the corner from its former prime location on Mass Ave. It now sits on a strip with a number of unique small businesses (I plan to hit up the shoe repair shop ASAP to handle some issues with my favorite boots). I walked in and was the only customer in the store. As such, I halfway expected to be followed around the store, being carefully watched to see if I was a shoplifter. This was so not the case. The employees in the store were extraordinarily friendly and endearing, went out of their way to be helpful (one sista even went in to the back of the store to make sure that her manager re-ordered a product I expressed interest in to make sure they would have some for me the next time I dropped by). I felt so comfortable and catered to, it was as though I had walked into an establishment owned by my aunties. I realized how much I miss the Black business of yesteryear, where "everybody knows your name" and asks after your family.
I will definitely go back to Venus the next time I need some hair gel, a rat-tail comb, or a satin pillow-case. I'm even going to see if I can get them to carry some of the products for us naturals, like Mixed Chics, Miss Jessies and Huetiful (anyone who wants to hook me up with a Huetiful Steamer holler at me!) More than thinking about the issue of race/ethnicity, I hope that the community will continue to support our local businesses. I mean, it's great that Target is expanding its "ethnic hair care" selections, but I think they get enough of my money. Instead, a trip to Venus will be out of this world.