Meet Rica Dabney, owner of Just Me & More Salon
I sat down with Ms Rica Dabney, who recently won the Feb 8 "Show of Hands" award. We discuss her business as well as her background and her work with Black hairstyles
I began this project for a variety of reasons. Influenced by established media (Democracy NOW!, PBS NewsHour, NPR, WVPB) and recently inspired by a start-up media organization called BLACK BY GOD | The West Virginian –which seeks to center Black voices and recently championed a campaign to recruit citizens into a #FolkReporter program– I happened to choose my first article on the February 7 Wheeling City Council meeting, which happened to be the first meeting during Black History Month, and which happened to be the day the Wheeling City Council unanimously passed the CROWN Act. At this point inspiration leads to a sense of responsibility- a personal duty to uplift Black voices in my reporting.
At this City Council Meeting it was also noted by Council-woman Rosemary Ketchum that Wheeling Heritage’s February 8th Show of Hands would be highlighting four Black-owned businesses in honor of Black History Month. [For those unaware, Show of Hands happens a couple times per year and is put on by Wheeling Heritage. Funds are raised by the community in attendance, business owners speak about their business, and the audience votes for the winner to receive the donations– often totaling thousands of dollars.] While I did not attend in person, I learned of the winning business in an article by WTRF 7News’ Steve Moore Ms Rica Dabney of Just Me & More Salon, and my interest was piqued at reading, “She plans on using the money to replace the steps into her salon with something more accessible to her disabled guests.” I wanted to know more about Ms Dabney.
I popped in on a Friday, without calling, around 2:00 PM. Upon entering Just Me & More salon I wasn’t able to identify the accessibility issue at first– the front door is at grade. Once inside, I noticed a separate room, where the salon is, two-steps higher than the main entrance, where the reception is. I was greeted by a young woman who asked if I needed help. I explained I was interested in scheduling an interview with Ms Dabney and, to my surprise, she agreed for that coming Tuesday! She was in the middle of working with a client’s hair– a young woman with long, dark brown braids with blonde-colored braids arranged throughout. When I came in for our interview Ms Dabney was with another client. I waited for her in the spacious reception, with many comfortable couches to sit on. To entertain yourself there was a radio playing Top Hits, many fashion and beauty related magazines, paintings and decor, and a large mural of Ms Dabney with the inscription “Just Me, est. 2016.” I can’t help but note I was actually excited for the wait for two reasons– one, I had free time to send a couple important messages and flip through a magazine, and two, this waiting was a testament to the work ethic Ms Dabney has– one that values her customers, their time, and their hair.
I started by asking Ms Rica Dabney about her background. I learned she was born and raised in Wheeling. She grew up in a former housing complex known as Vineyard Hills, which, until the 1980s, sat atop Grandview St overlooking downtown. I know of the former Vineyard Hills, Lincoln Heights, and other former housing complexes because of the work I do. When Ms Dabney reflects on this time, she notes how the area was impoverished– but that she and her two siblings were none-the-wiser to this fact because of their mother’s hard work and sacrifice. I wanted Ms Dabney to talk about her earliest experiences with hair styling, prefacing this by acknowledging this process is a lived experience shared by most Black people, but one that many white people know little or nothing about. She shares her story –one I am sure many other Black women can relate to– of metal combs heated on the kitchen burner to straighten her hair growing up. As a kid, Ms Dabney notes there were no Black-centered salons locally in Wheeling, meaning she and her mother would travel to Canton or Steubenville, Ohio. She also notes the chemical straighteners used on her hair started around the age of 15-years-old. Ms Dabney talked about her breast cancer diagnosis in 2009, which led her to start seeking out less harmful chemicals, and plant-based treatments for her clients.
I wanted to get Ms Rica Dabney’s opinion on the Wheeling City Council’s unanimous passage of the CROWN Act, which added protective hairstyles to the definition of discrimination based on race, thereby protecting people from discrimination based on hairstyles historically associated with race. This is personal for Ms Dabney for two reasons, 1) she is a Black woman, and 2) her business offers these protective hairstyles, like braids and locks, to her clients. “It’s wonderful. For a woman, your hair is your signature,” Ms Dabney said. “For us to be able to wear our hair freely, and how we like it, and what suits us daily– is great.”
We talked briefly about the Market Street bridge closure. This bridge, which links downtown and Center Wheeling together, has been closed for months apparently due to a fire caused by a person’s tent. So far Ms Dabney has not heard anything from the City of Wheeling about the closure, but she hopes it will reopen soon, citing the multiple businesses who share the block and who are competing for parking spaces.
I had to ask Ms Rica Dabney about her experience at Show of Hands. “[I’m] very honored that I applied and my business was [one of] the businesses selected.” She tells me about the customers who, leading up to the event, implored her to imply. When talking about the ramp she plans to add to her shop, Ms Dabney says she is “grateful [to be] able to make my shop accessible to all– it’s not just for people that don’t have a disability.”
Ms Dabney graduated from cosmetology school in 2005 and has worked at many salons around Wheeling. She decided to open her own business in 2016, and relocated to her current location at 1908 Market Street in March of 2022. Ms Dabney reflected on her work history positively, going as far as saying she had tried before to leave the hair business but, “God keeps bringing me right back to it.” Ms Dabney provides a variety of services, including hair coloring, hair extensions, protective styles, braids, deep conditioning treatments, etc. “What I like about what I do is that I make everybody’s appointment personable,” she told me. And, in the brief exchanges I had popping into Just Me & More salon, it’s clear as day these aren’t just quotes– they’re values.
It was an honor to speak with Ms Rica Dabney. You can support her and her salon, Just Me & More salon, by following her Facebook page and scheduling an appointment. To listen to our full interview click here. To listen to our full interview click here. To view the transcript for this interview click here.
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