Hairizon, a natural DIY beauty boutique in Durham, was founded by two best friends who wanted to make natural beauty products readily available. The store is recovering from a car crashing through the front of their front window, and that hardship has made the owners appreciate Durham’s sense of community and dedication to small businesses. Southern Neighbor writer Kerry Lengyel sat down with Valerie Jackson, one of the owners of Hairizon, to discuss the store’s concept and future plans to serve the Durham community.
Where did the idea for Hairizon come from?
It originated with my daughter Joi and a college roommate, Charia; they both were chemically straightening their hair to take the natural coilness out of it, but in order to maintain that, it costs (a lot) because you need to get your hair done with a schedule of every four to six weeks. Joi and Charia were at UNC-Charlotte campus, and they decided not to keep spending money on getting their hair done, so they wanted to transition into a natural state of their hair. So once Joi was in that natural transitioning process, she was calling me regularly for money to find products that would be good for her hair and help to encourage a healthy environment for her natural hair. All this time she’s transitioning, trying to find great products — a lot of trial and error to find good products — and finally she came to me and said, “Mom, I have an idea. Once I graduate I want to open a store where women can come and find great products for their hair and not have to pay an arm and a leg for shipping.” We’ll do the initial legwork to research the products, and then we can stand behind them and tell them these things work and here they are and available to you. It’s our passion now.
What is a DIY beauty bar?
The beautify bar is the anchor of Hairizon. What we actually do on the beauty bar is we customize products for the customer. So say if you come in and say you have dry, dull hair, we can customize the shampoo or conditioner or hair oil that can help to eliminate those things. We have a beautify bar menu where we break down specific oils and vitamins that are good for the hair and how they work. We have organic shampoo, conditioner and oils that we just add those ingredients to. On top of that, you can add any essential fragrance, like lavender or jasmine, so that you get the total package — so you get something that smells great, and you get something that’s good for your hair, and its minus all of the fillers and commercial preservatives that a lot of the products you see in the larger retail stores have. We like to have you come into Hairizons and have someone be able to talk to you about your hair. It’s not like when you go to some of the big stores where you’re looking for help from someone with a product, and they don’t know how it works, and you get overwhelmed by shelves and shelves that say, “I do this, I do that,” and you don’t have a reference point. You don’t have someone who can sit with you and talk with you and get personally invested.
We also whip customized body butters. We have Shea butter, mango butter and avocado butter. Any one of these three can be customized with essential oils or fragrance oils, so you can have a moisturizing treat for your body. We have a base sugar scrub with white sugar, vitamin E, sapphire oil or avocado oil. We combine those so you have a great foundation, and then you can build on that with a fragrance or essential oils like lemongrass or rose oils, anything you’d like to see, and we actually make it right there at the bar for you. We like to say we’re bartenders. You can get Shea butter with vitamin E, peppermint and eucalyptus in it — we’ll mix it up right there, label it, list the ingredients and then you can take that home.
How do you fit into the Durham community?
The thing about downtown Durham is in the past five years, we have seen downtown Durham grow and change and evolve into a destination — not just you’re going to DPAC, or you’re going to the ballgame. Downtown Durham now has its own draw in that we have several different venues that are active and bringing in great talent. There are events going on; there are different festivals, music — there are all types of things that draw people to the destination of downtown Durham, and we’ve really gotten to watch that grow and change and we wanted to stay a part of that because it is an awesome thing.
The basis of Hairizon is the beauty bar, but we have 28 different “partners,” we call them, (who) have allowed their products to be showcased in our stores. We have a student who makes soy candles, housewife who recycles jewelry — all kinds of great things.
How has the community supported Hairizon through its bout of bad luck?
We have had some community support and we have greatly appreciated it. The downtown Durham Initiative, as well as the Greater Durham Area Chamber of Commerce have been on the lookout for us as far as available properties that could possibly be the future home to Hairizons, but again, because it is such a vibrant and growing area, it’s a challenge for a small business to meet some of the requirements that some of the building owners are placing on their locations. Because it is so hot, and the bubble for real estate has not burst as far as downtown Durham is concerned, the building owners can ask for and get really above normal money for leasing of the properties. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true and particularly for women and minorities’ businesses — there are fewer and fewer able to maintain their businesses in downtown Durham, and that’s a shame.
What are your future plans for the store?
Right now our goal is to expand our bar — to be able to bring in more exotic butters, to bring in more beneficial oils. We’re in the process of researching some essential oils that come out of South America with anti-inflammatory agents. We’re looking at trying to continue with courses and events in the store where we invite the public in, and we have seminars on hair care, heart disease and voter registration. We want to continue to be a location where you can find out about different events going on in Durham. There are a lot of positive things going on in Durham, and we have felt like an ambassador many times — when travelers from out of town were in the area on the weekends, we were one of the few retail locations where someone can walk in and ask where they should go. We would like to continue with events in the store, possibly sponsors from the events in larger venues in Durham, but what we’d like to do is grow and be more visible in the community as a location for great things going on.
In your GoFundMe page, you mentioned you’re looking to open a pop-up market in the meantime. Have you made any progress on those plans?
We are in negotiations with a building owner downtown to see if it would be possible to do a pop-up market. That would be something where we’d be temporarily located in the downtown Durham area where customers could come see what we have to offer and make purchases for a limited time. Currently, we’re located at the Northgate Mall, Suite 852, on the outside exterior perimeter of the mall at entrance four. We will be there for the next three months, and during that time period we hope to be continuing to reach out to the building locations in the downtown area. Hopefully we can get somewhere in two- to three-mile perimeter of where we were previously.
Is there anything you’d like to add about the Durham community?
I would just like to stress the importance of Durham, citizens of Durham and citizens of the Southeast to support local businesses. It’s really easy for potential customers to think, “Well, I can just go to Wal-Mart and other big box retailers and not give a thought to the small businesses that are trying to stay and endure and thrive.” There’s lots of them in Durham that would love to be able to have more business, so I would say to Durham: Support small, support local, keep your dollars in the community whenever possible.