When Yolanda Bailey, owner of The Weave Bar in University City, was looking for a new spot to launch a second salon, she didn’t think twice about choosing a Germantown Avenue location where it feels as if every other storefront is a hair salon or barbershop.
“I polled a lot of clients in our West Philly location, and this was the No. 1 choice,” said Bailey who took her clientele’s advice and opened her second express braiding and weave salon in October at 5622 Germantown Ave.
A few windows down sits another salon with a large, white sign advertising 50 percent off of weaves. Several stores down is another hair cuttery. And then, not even a block away, there’s another competitor. Despite the area being inundated with salons, Bailey never found herself worried about having a steady business flow.
Enough business to go around
“It makes you feel good when you get your hair done. Everyone wants to look good and feel their best,” said Bailey, referencing why she believes so many salons can exist in Germantown. “Our culture in the U.S. puts a lot of emphasis on the way we look. I don’t think that’s specific to Germantown, though. That’s everywhere.”
The Weave Bar only services women, with weave instillations constituting between 80 and 85 percent of the customers’ requests. “Definitely in the African-American community, the weave is in everyone’s top three services,” Bailey said.
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, 80 percent of Germantown’s population is African American and Bailey estimated about 85 percent of her clientele is.
“Weaves, specifically in the African-American community, allow these women variety,” Bailey said. “I think that’s the beautiful thing about hair in general, especially with back hair. But that goes for all women. Our hair is our pride and joy.”
For Weave Bar regular Tiandra Williams, variety is definitely one of the main reasons why she gets a weave nearly every two months.
“There’s more things with weaves I want to do that I wouldn’t do with my real hair. It’s less permanent,” said Williams, who decided on a hairstyle that included a new set of bangs cut straight across her forehead. “If I wasn’t spending money on this, I’d be spending it on something else. Besides, with my natural hair, I’d be getting it done every two to three weeks anyways.”
Delecia Barnes, who has been getting a weave since she turned 16, said the hairstyle has helped take a lot of stress off of her natural hair. “I don’t have to put a lot of heat to it, like a flat iron,” Barnes said. “Instead, I can just get up and go.”
Barnes agree that weaves are particularly helpful for the hair types of many African Americans.
“Like a lot of the African-American community, if I didn’t have a weave, my hair would just puff out in the humidity,” Barnes said. “Plus, with my natural hair there tends to be a lot of breakage because I can’t get to the salon as much as my natural hair needs.”
More than weaves
The salon also offers traditional services and specialty eyelash services and has a private room that caters specifically to those with alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss, and those who are cancer survivors. “A lot of these people want that salon experience but feel uncomfortable going,” Bailey said.
The enclosed room is also often used for Muslim customers who prefer not to remove their hijab in public. “They want to look good too. When they’re at home with their husbands, it gives them variety,” Bailey said. “Sometimes they just want to shock their husband. It can keep things spicy.”
Despite the economy, many Germantown residents agreed that getting their hair done is a priority they must fit into their budget.
“Given the economic climate we’re currently in, a lot of people are really cost conscious. But when you have certain jobs, you have to look the part,” Bailey said. “Getting your hair done is integral to that.”
For Williams, who works as a front-desk receptionist at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott hotel, this concept couldn’t be anymore true. “It’s definitely a priority in my budget. With my job, I have to keep my looks to a certain expectation,” Williams said. “It’s not just a want, it’s a need because I need to look good for my job.”
Weaves at The Weave Bar range between $50 and $90, although it’s not uncommon to see weaves for as much as $350 at a typical hair salon.
“Looking good doesn’t have to cost a lot. I wanted women to be able to feel good about themselves without having to break their bank doing it,” said Bailey, who designed her business around helping those who couldn’t afford a several-hundred-dollar weave. “It’s crazy for people who don’t have the income to do that.”
Customer Shaddai Giddens said the reasonable price is why she wandered over to The Weave Bar among all the other salons in the area. She recently got a weave that added an extra 12 inches to her hair.
“It makes me feel beautiful. My friends always love it and are always commenting on my different looks,” Giddens said. “I just want to play with my style for a little, and the weave makes me more daring.”
Hattie Cheek and Grace Dickinson are students at Temple University. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.