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Dawn and Tim Wright of Total Elegance Salon consider their business in downtown Roanoke part of their ministry as well as their livelihood.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Dawn Wright laughs while reminiscing about the last 20 years of working at Total Elegance Salon in downtown Roanoke. “There’s something about doing real hair,” says Wright. “I’m here to create the beauty that is within.” Wright and her husband, Tim, have been in the current location on Jefferson Street since 1998.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Dawn Wright and her husband, Tim, own Total Elegance Salon on South Jefferson Street in Roanoke.
This year, they're celebrating the 20th anniversary of their business being open downtown. Over the past two decades, the Wrights have seen many changes in downtown and have experienced changes themselves, including moving their business from Campbell Avenue, where it opened, to Jefferson Street.
In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama came to Roanoke on a campaign stop. After a rally at the Roanoke Civic Center, he made a swing through downtown - and he stopped by the Wrights' salon, which sported a prominently placed "Obama" sign.
Both Wrights are ordained ministers as well as hair stylists, and they have been married for 13 years. They said they consider their business part of their ministry as well as their livelihood.
Q: How have you seen downtown change in the 20 years you've been here?
Dawn Wright: We've watched businesses open, close, traffic's changed, people living downtown. ... Just watching Heironimus , Lazarus, Grand Piano and all those places close. It was wild. The old standbys were here and they're gone. ... But yes, downtown has definitely changed. Different traffic patterns, oh God, yes. The parades - that's what drives me crazy more than anything. ... The parades, the races.
Q: Do you feel like you get more people walking in [during parades]?
Tim Wright: It disrupts our business. The city doesn't give notifications, they just close our streets. ... Parking has been our biggest issue.
DW: I remember we used to get a parking ticket, it was like, $5? Shoo, we'd get parking tickets, two or three a day. We'd be like, whatever. Now it's like, go move your car! Back then it was like, I've been there for an hour, whatever. Now they'll write you a boot. ... You didn't get a boot back then! ... I'm like, a boot? I got boots on my feet! My car's not supposed to have a boot! Those are the things down here that have changed that really drive you crazy.
Q: What about positive changes downtown?
DW: With the people moving downtown, living and stuff, it's really neat because you see a lot of diverse people coming in.
TW: We are a multicultural salon. We do different services. One of the nice things is we have nice relationships with other businesses. We love people downtown. Some other salons downtown refer people to us. ... Everybody told us not to put our business downtown. But we've survived, we're doing well. I don't know what the secret is. ... We've carved a niche and found the right kind of people and clientele, and it's wonderful to be downtown.
DW: It's just the atmosphere of downtown, different people. Everybody had their own groove. Before I became a hairstylist, my major in college was music, so I guess you could say I'm artsy-fartsy. ... Creative people, I guess, kind of like the laid-back attitude of not being in the norm. ... Downtown is always something different happening. ... But this is our ministry. We're both ministers.
Q: Do you work out of a particular church?
DW: My husband's the pastor of Green Spring in Greenview, and I'm the associate there. We weren't ministers when we first started the business, but this has become part of our ministry because we minister to people that come in. ... They don't know we're ministers a lot of times until they start talking to us ... and the next thing they know they're getting a little Word into their life and we're helping them. It's comforting to us. A lot of people have calls and with us, we may not be able to go into mission fields otherwise, but this is what we get to do.
Q: What are your customers like? Have they changed over the past 20 years?
DW: When we first opened on Campbell, we did more of the younger crowd. ... Corned Beef and Company bought the building we were in. That's the greatest change. ... We had to find a new location and we lucked out. ... We moved over here in '98. We were down at Campbell for five years and moved here over a weekend. We closed Saturday night, moved furnishings on Saturday evening and opened back up on Tuesday morning.
Q: What led you to opening the business in the first place? Why did you to want to own your own salon?
DW: I liked the idea of owning my own business. I wanted to own something of my own. ... We had people invest to help us along the way and get us started and they helped us open up. We were fortunate. Tim knew somebody who knew someone who had the shop down there and ... we decided, OK , we can do it.
Q: You have been working together the whole time?
DW: Yeah. ... We've known each other since we were 12.
Q: So what's that like?
TW: People ask, "How come you work with your wife?" We've been best friends for so long and at work, we know one's the president, one's the vice president. We know our roles. At home, too, we know our positions.
DW: We're in church together, everywhere we go is together. We'll be together for years.
Q: Tell us about when President Obama was here.
DW: [After watching the third debate on television] I was like, I want to meet him, I'd love to meet him. And we had just put the sign in the window. ... [The day before Obama's rally in Roanoke] the campaign guy drove up and I was like, dang, he's in a hurry for a haircut, because he came in and slammed on his brakes. He came in and goes, "Would y'all like to go see the rally tomorrow?" And he gave me some tickets. I said sure. "Would you like to see Obama tomorrow?" I said sure. "Would you like for him to come by and see you?" I said sure. I'm like, yeah right. ... We went to the rally the next day and I'm like, Obama's not coming, yeah right. ... So we came back to the shop and about that time the guy came back and said, "I understand he wants to come and see, come by here." ... It was really something to remember.
Q: Did that generate interest?
DW: Yeah. People come through and get a haircut and they're asking us, "Do you have Obama's hair?" And I'm like, "No, do you think the Secret Service is going to let me touch him with a pair of scissors?" I mean no. I don't have his hair. A lot of people ... just wanted to come in a place he'd been.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who's going start their own business or open their own shop, what would you tell them?
TW: Stay in prayer. Start small, research well. ... Think big, but be practical.
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