After filling a commercial block in Ypsilanti Township with women- and people of color-owned beauty businesses, business owners there are promoting themselves as "The Beauty Block."
At Ridge Center, 2925 E. Michigan Ave in Ypsilanti Township, longtime Ypsi-area curly hair product business and salon Original Moxie
was recently joined by a high-end braiding business, Anaya Beauty Salon
; and Forever Beauty Co
. Salon and Spa, a family-run suite of three beauty businesses.
In addition to supporting and cross-promoting one another, The Beauty Block's business owners have more collaborations on the horizon and another woman-owned business moving in soon.
A flagship and two newcomers
Original Moxie is the longest-standing of the three current Beauty Block businesses and the first to move into the Ridge Center. The business started with a hair care line being made in founder Rachel Blistein's home in 2009 and moved to Ypsilanti's Depot Town
before settling in its current location a little over a year ago. Original Moxie has both a production room for products and a salon with four chairs.
Anaya Beauty Salon grew from a side hustle to Rickeilia Shah's main business. She worked as a medical assistant for years and braided hair as a side hustle. The name Anaya Beauty grew out of a pandemic pivot, when Shah's side hustle changed from braiding people's hair in person to styling wigs and hair extensions and selling them online. She kept the name Anaya, after her first daughter, for her new hair braiding salon, moving into Ridge Center in August.
Forever Beauty Co. Salon and Spa is "like a mixture of three different businesses inside of one," says owner and esthetician Lauryn Jordan. Her aunt, Lynette Jordan-Burrell, owns an eyelash business called Where's the Glue? Jordan-Burrell's daughter and Jordan's cousin Jasmin Jordan cuts, colors, and styles hair under the name Jazzy J's Hair Salon.
Lauryn Jordan, Jasmin Jordan, and Lynnette Jordan-Burrell at Forever Beauty Co. Salon and Spa.
Jordan-Burrell suggested that the business owners stop renting spaces in three different locations and come together under one roof. She says it was a lot of work to get ready, and she helped give the other two owners "a little push" to move into the space they now occupy in September.
Blistein knows the feeling of not being quite ready to execute a new plan.
"Right before you feel ready is when these [opportunities] come along and you have to psyche yourself up to do it," Blistein says.
Building The Beauty Block
Blistein says that for the first year her business was in its current location, the commercial strip had a lot of different tenants with no particular theme. It was filled with tenants focused on everything from trucking logistics to massage therapy, she says.
"There were always people moving out or in, and no one was really committed to the space in the way all three of us are," Blistein says.
Blistein says she and the other business owners are "excited" about the possibilities of cross-promotion, hoping to "establish the area as a center for elevated beauty that prioritizes the needs of their underserved populations."
Rachel Blistein at Original Moxie.
The businesses collaborated on a Self Care Fair on Oct. 15 that promoted wellness in the Black, Indigenous, and people of color community. Despite chilly weather, they attracted more visitors than they expected.
"I didn't expect such a big turnout," Shah says. "I prepared 50 little gift bags, and they were gone in no time."
The Beauty Block continues to evolve. All the business owners are excited that yet another woman-owned business, Blessings of Care daycare center, will join the block soon. That is still in the works as the owner builds out a play space and deals with licensing.
The Beauty Block businesses are hoping to build their brands through their collaboration. They hope their landlord will allow them to update signage to help passersby locate the strip of businesses more easily.
They also hope to create synergy with their community outreach plans. The business owners intend for the self-care fair to be just the first of many collaborations.
Blistein has been hosting the Red Door program since 2020, providing free hair services and products to children with curly hair who have a need. Children can apply on their own behalf or be nominated by someone else through an online form on Original Moxie's website
The program has served a total of nine children ages 9 to 13, and Blistein estimates that she's donated products and services worth nearly $7,000 over that time. Blistein has invited the other Beauty Block businesses to participate in the program by providing products or services in the years to come.
The program originally focused on those who were economically challenged, but it can also apply to those with a "social" challenge, Blistein says.
Rickeilia Shah at Anaya Beauty Salon.
She says some young program participants are adopted and/or might be the only Black child in their class, and no one around them knows how to take care of their hair.
"This program can be life-changing for them," Blistein says. "It could be the first time someone has been positive about their [curly] hair."
Jordan says she'd like the businesses to all coordinate coat and backpack drives, while Jordan-Burrell has already been distributing coats and hot meals to homeless people on Thanksgiving. She has also organized Christmas donations for families in need and hopes that combining forces with the other business owners can make those efforts go further.
All the owners are looking forward to the possibilities that collaboration opens up for each business, from referring clients to one another to hosting a bigger and better Self Care Fair next year.
"It was kind of lonely for a while out here," Blistein says. "I'm so excited having people coming in and out of [their] businesses. We all have different specialities, and there's a good synergy between all of our clientele."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos by Doug Coombe.