Julie’s Hair Salon provides a gathering place for community
By Bianca Rainwater
Hair dryers roaring, heat waves circulating, water swishing, bright lights all around and the buzzing of world languages – this is a typical day in Julie’s Hair Salon. Nestled in a plaza filled with stores selling clothing, shoes, electronics, groceries, Julie’s Hair Salon sits at 1171 University Boulevard.
Though the location has only been open two years, the community embraces the business as much more than a beauty parlor, and the women who frequent Julie’s love it. Customers, new and old, stream in throughout the day to buy handbags, jewelry, hats, scarves and, of course, receive new hairstyles.
Julie’s is a Dominican hair salon part-owned by Julie Lopez, who has been a hair stylist for 32 years. The salon advertises itself as a Dominican hair salon but its clients include women and men of all backgrounds and hair types. The women of the salon say they pride themselves on making clients look and feel good.
In the most traditional sense, hair salons are meant to satisfy the haircare needs of its clients. Julie’s takes that a step further by offering a friendly atmosphere where clients and stylists take care of more than just hair.
The waiting area is filled with handbag and jewelry displays just past the coat rack inside the door. Bright colors, shining stones, crisp leather and bags of varying sizes are abundant. Clients have the chance to complete their new hairstyles with accessories, or just drop by for a new hat or scarf.
An artificial Christmas tree remains in the box while conversation about Three Kings Day, on Jan. 6, takes place between customers and stylists. They discuss family and gifts, practically shivering at the mention of the coming cold weather as the holidays approach.
“I don’t know what to get my granddaughter, since her birthday gift was pretty big,” one customer says. Her stylist replies “Don’t worry, she’s a sweet girl and will appreciate whatever you give her.”
The conversation sounds simple on the surface, but it shows the connection stylists form with their clients at this salon. In the midst of small conversations, hair-rollers are placed, helmet dryers are turned on and physical transformations take place.
“I love everything about doing hair,’ Lopez says as she talks about doing hair since the age of 12 and practicing on her six siblings. “I practiced on the neighborhood, but I always charged, even if it was just 25 cents.”
As she blended her passion for hair with her desire to be an entrepreneur, Lopez opened three hair salons in the state of Maryland. The University Boulevard location is the third. She brought over clients from the Silver Spring and Hagerstown locations.
Having a strong client base is important to the stylists but they also accept walk-ins. On occasion, regular clients arrive without appointments but most of the walk-ins are new. Since the salon is open seven days a week and at least seven hours a day there is plenty of space for convenience in the scheduling of clients.
“I don’t regularly get my hair done, but it’s good to have a place where I can go on short notice and still come out looking nice,” says Lillian James, a neighborhood resident.
Women who shop in the salon’s plaza give kudos to Julie’s Hair Salon.
“Even the bathroom is nice. The atmosphere is really warm and makes getting your hair done feel more like a treat than a task,” says Veronica Sanchez, a customer of the salon.
Parties, weddings and other special events bring clients to Julie’s, but Lopez believes it’s the experience that brings them back. The friendly, inviting atmosphere clients describe refers to more than the physical appearance of the salon.
The stylists are personable and open up to clients just as clients open up to them. Hair care is top priority, the health needs of each client’s hair are treated accordingly. The clients make friends with each other and help create a family-like feeling. For them, the salon is more than a place to take care of their appearance. It’s a safe harbor where they build community.