TRANSCRIPT: Meet Rica Dabney, owner of Just Me & More Salon
Intro music provided royalty free by Kevin MacLeod entitled “River Valley Breakdown”
0:08 Justice Hudson: You’re listening to the Hudson Household Editorial– an independent media organization. Before we start this interview I want to give you a bit more background into this project. Just briefly, I am a politically active and aware citizen. From a young age I have been curious about social and political issues, history, and American government. By my first general election in November 2016 I had helped register over 200 of my classmates to vote as well as worked the Primary Election as a Clerk in May of 2016– not something most would even think about at 18. For the past seven years I have tuned into Democracy NOW! In the morning, NPR and WVPB while commuting, and PBS NewsHour at night- all serving now as my inspiration for this project. More recently I learned about a newsletter called BLACK BY GOD | The West Virginian– which seeks to center black voices in their coverage. Through their social media accounts I have not only been able to stay updated on local issues, but also feel empowered to report on my own community, tell my own stories, and uplift the stories in the community around me.
1:27 JH: I first heard about Ms Rica Dabney and her business, Just Me & More Salon, after Wheeling Heritage’s Show of Hands event held on February . For those who don’t know, Show of Hands is an event that happens multiple times a year and highlights small business owners in Wheeling. The event involves raising community donations, the business owners speaking, and the audience voting for a winner. This recent Show of Hands was in honor of Black History Month and four Black business owners competed for the prize. Ms Dabney won that night, receiving over $4,000. I found this out in an article published by WTRF 7News, and my interest was piqued when she said she was going to spend the money to improve her shop’s accessibility by adding a ramp. Reading that I knew Ms Rica Dabney had a story to tell and luckily I have a janky mic and basic recording skills! I hope you all enjoy,
2:30 RICA DABNEY: My name is Rica Dabney. I am a Wheeling native. I was born and raised here in Wheeling, West Virginia. I was raised in a housing complex called Vineyard Hills in East Wheeling. Low, poverty area. We were all like family, but didn’t have much, but no one ever knew that we didn’t have what we needed. I went to hair school in ‘05, graduated in ‘06 at college here which was located at Market Street in Wheeling– it is now closed. Years down the road I worked at Salon 2212 that was located at 2212 Nation Road in Wheeling. I worked there for approximately 5 and a half to 6 years. Just thought one day I’m going to move and go out on my own, and I did that. I relocated from Salon 2212. In 2016 I moved to 1022 Main Street, Mull Center building in downtown Wheeling and I stayed there about 5 years. And I recently just relocated to 1908 Market Street March 1st of last year .
3:49 JH: I wanted Ms Dabney to talk about her first experiences with hair. As a white person I didn’t have problems finding barbers or salons that catered to my hair type. Likewise, my hair texture does not require much maintenance beyond regular cleaning and conditioning. And, as I said to Ms Dabney, I wanted her to talk about her experience with hair not because it is unique, but because it is an experience many white people do not understand or know little about.
4:21 RD: I was raised with hot tools and hot combs that were placed on a cooking stove for heat. That’s how we got our hair straightened. Back when I was growing up we didn’t have flat irons or– I’m not going to say a curling iron wasn’t available, but the hot tools off the stove was what we used to straighten our hair and to get our hair smooth. I do what I do for my community. When I was younger I had no hair salons to go to. When I was 15-years-old my mother– we used to travel to Canton, Ohio. We used to travel to Steubenville, OH. There was no black salons right here locally when I was growing up. Like I said, 15 and 16 that’s the age where us Blacks start getting established with hair salons and different hair products. When we did get relaxers that’s the age, 15 you know.
5:20 JH: I asked Ms Dabney to talk about the people in her life who inspired her or who she considered role models. As we talk about her mother and a woman who would become like a grandmother, and as Ms Dabney reflects on her time in Vineyard Hills and as a single-mother, we start to learn the deep connection she has with the idea of community and of family.
5:42 RD: My mother has always been a role model to me. Being a single mother and raising three kids on her own and providing for us and continuing to give us what we needed. She’s always inspired me to be a go-getter. She’s always told me what you have set in mind to do, never forget about it or never put it on the back burner like it’s not existing. She’s always told me. And I’ve always tried to go away from the hair business and God keeps bringing me right back to it. I graduated in ‘06 from Scott college. I then worked for a year or two at a salon called Hair and Care on 12th Street in Wheeling. I worked with a woman that owned the Salon, Crystal Smith. Like I said, I worked there for two years– you know, my clientele wasn’t picking up as I wanted to and I was a single mother as well with two children at home. So I became a shift supervisor at the Casino on Wheeling Island, and I did that for about a year. My mother was a social worker. She placed people in houses to do private care, and I then took on a job. I took care of a lady– Robert Fitzsimmons mother –here in Wheeling. I took care of her for five years. It wasn’t just the job. Once I was with her for a year or two she became family, she was like a grandmother to me. We all became family. When she passed away, you know, “What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?” Well then, low and behold I was diagnosed with breast cancer in ‘09 and two years later, which was 2011, is when I said let me put my cosmetology license into use, and I was hired at Salon 2212– which, I was acquainted there because, when I was in hair school, I was the receptionist [at Salon 2212]. So it wasn’t like I had to go for an interview or whatnot. She knew my skills, she knew what I could do, and I went there and worked.
8:00 JH: As I mentioned earlier, I learned about Ms Rica Dabney after she won the February 6 Show of Hands. I wanted to hear how she felt not only to be highlighted in honor of Black History Month and of black business owners, but to end up winning no less.
8:15 RD: Very honored. Very honored that I applied and my business was selected– was one of the businesses selected for Black History-Black-owved businesses this month. I’ve had customers that were telling me, “Apply! Apply! Apply!” You know, you’re always doing things and trying to fix your shop up on your own– you apply, that’s what they give you money for is to help you upgrade your business and this and that. Again, very honored. Truly appreciative. It’s grateful I’m able to make my shop accessible to all– it’s not just for people that don't have a disability. To be able to put a ramp here and be able to get my clients that are wheelchair-accessible. To be able to bring them on the salon floor and not move things from the salon floor to the lobby to get them done. It’s going to be beautiful. Because I don’t want anybody to come to my shop and feel like I’m not able to help them. Whatever I can do to help them and make them feel better as a person– that’s what I’m here for.
9:26 JH: This led me to ask if she thought the City of Wheeling was supporting Black-owned businesses enough, and if she had any words of wisdom for young Black potential-entrepreneurs.
9:37 RD: I’m not going to say that the city is not supportive. It just seems– I just think our area, our location, it takes a little longer for Blacks to get established in the downtown area –and I’m not even going to say in the downtown area– in Wheeling as a whole. I stepped out on faith and I just kept pushing. And I never allowed anything or anyone to discourage me because I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew what my mission was. Like I stated at the Show of Hands and in many other interviews– I’ve probably done more free hair than I’ve gotten paid for.
10:22 JH: I also wanted to talk to Ms Dabney about the City Council of Wheeling passing the CROWN Act which added protection for protective hairstyles in the definition of discrimination based on race. Many of these protective hairstyles, like braids or locks, have historically been used by employers, schools, etc to discriminate against Black people. And, as a hairstylist and Black woman, Ms Dabney has a personal stake in this conversation.
10:52 RD: It’s wonderful. For a woman, your hair is your signature. You know, it’s big for us to get up every day, or not knowing what to do with our hair or what style looks best on us. So, for us to be able to wear our hair freely, and how we like it, and what suits us daily is great. And that’s what I’ve focused on daily. I focused on making a person feel good. I focus on what is easier and what is to their liking.
11:33 JH: On arriving at Just Me & More Salon to originally ask to interview Ms Dabney it came to my attention the Market Street bridge, which connects downtown to Center Market crossing Big Wheeling Creek, remained closed after months. This block, on the south side of the crik, is home to many businesses including book stores, a cafe, a barber, and Ms. Dabney’s shop. I wanted to ask her what impact this had on her business.
12;02 RD: The reason I heard that it was closed– I was out of town for a weekend and when I came back to work on that Tuesday morning I talked to a gentleman that has a barbershop right here on this same block. We went down over the hill and he said there was a fire– you know, a small fire that a homeless guy’s tent got caught on fire. We went down over the hill like I said and we didn’t see too much damage. My question was always, “How much damage could fire do to steel and concrete?” I’m just hoping one day they open it back up. I mean, it just feels like that we’re here, and now we’re fighting for parking. There’s businesses, three or four different businesses–
12:46 JH: –multiple–
12:47 RD: –right on this block. The Hall of Fame cafe is a big business, you know. I love her, we love the food and she has great business. But, you know, when you pull up at 10 o’clock and people’s already been there at 9:00 AM for breakfast, you know, you have nowhere to park, your clients have nowhere to park. In the near future I hope they come up with some type of idea, or some suggestion, to get this bridge back open.
13:09 JH: Have you heard anything from–
13:11 RD: I haven’t heard anything.
13;12 JH: Nothing?
13:12 RD: Nothing.
13:13 JH: Ok
13:14 JH: I wanted to end this episode by giving Ms Rica Dabney the chance to explain the services she offered. I was also curious how long her services usually take, which led us to talking about the type of customer relationships she fosters.
13:30 RD: The services that I offer here is– a lot of services –I offer hair color, hair extensions. I offer protective styles, braids, tape-in extensions, treatments– you know, deep conditioning treatments. And treatments to smooth the hair out rather than to put something harmful in your hair, such as a relaxer. Which that was something I was raised up using, relaxers. And they’re very harmful. And by my being a thirteen year breast cancer survivor I tried to use less harmful chemicals in my salon. I became a representative for Shop Club, which is Melaleuca, which is all [less harmful] household products that I use at home and have brought into my salon. Again, I try to use less harmful things for sanitizing. And I use less harmful and plant based products for my clients for the healthiness of the hair. To keep the hair healthy. And, you know, not to cause any health problems down the line. If they’re just coming in to get a deep conditioning, get a wash, I say 45-minutes to an hour– I give every client an hour. What I like about what I do is that I make everybody’s appointment personable. It’s me and them, one-on-one. At times on Friday’s when I’m a little busy, you know I might have someone coming in that came in a little early and I have to start them, or they’re still sitting in the same area. But like I said, I try to make everyone’s appointment personable.
15:12 JH: And, just like that, our thirty minutes were up!
15:15 RD: My name is Rica Dabney and I am located at 1908 Market Street. And again, we have many, many services. Come check out our business. We’re very friendly– very friendly and family-orientated here. Like I said, we make each one of our clients feel like it's one-on-one. We like things to stay personable here.
15:48 JH: You can support Ms Rica Dabney and Just Me & More Salon by sharing this interview, sharing her Facebook page, and booking an appointment! You can support me by subscribing for free at my substack page to read and listen to more stories like this.
16:08 JH: My name is Justice Hudson, this is the Hudson Household Editorial. Thanks for listening! Bye!
Outro music provided royalty free by Kevin MacLeod entitled “River Valley Breakdown”
The Hudson Household Editorial is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.