There’s a colorful building on the east end of Mitchell Avenue, a new business that has opened within the last month. There’s an even more colorful character behind the walls inside.
Sonia Carter, a retired educator turned Realtor, has opened Fondren Studio and Hair Gallery in a house that was at one time on the city’s demolition list. Carter bought the dilapidated structure from an investor two years ago. It’s taken a lot to renovate it.
“A lot of prayer,” Carter points out. “A tree had fallen in the back side and a tree on the front side. I kept the logs (‘artsy,’ she interjects, pointing to stumps serving as end tables) — as a reminder of the hard work.” The result is a building freshly outfitted with new walls, new fixtures, a new roof and paint in shades of blue, red, orange and green.
When I mention the sheer amount of salons in Fondren — Carter boisterously and playfully counters, “but you don’t have one on this end (of Mitchell.) It’s a new trend. We’re doing something new!”
Indeed, her business, nestled in amongst old growth trees and residential homes, is the first one on this block. But not for long. “I just believe in the future to come, this street will be filled with more shops than living,” Carter says of Mitchell, where businesses like Lipstick Lounge and Fondren’s Fashion House are nearby neighbors.
You’d think Carter must be a veteran in the hair business as she gives me the run down of her facilities. “No,” she says with a straight face. “You want me to start on you and it’d be a joke.”
That’s where longtime friend, fellow Realtor and licensed cosmetologist, Marie Evans, comes in. Evans will serve as managing partner of Fondren Studio. Joining her is Carter’s cosmetologist niece, Carrie Darby and cosmetologist Kim Parker. There are seven chairs to fill and a barber or two will be added to the mix.
While Evans and crew “cut up” in the back, Carter has admirable plans for up front. The offices of her ministry, Divine Restoration Community Ministries, will provide drug and alcohol counseling and help for the homeless. “Because Marie and I are like sisters,” she says of the shared floor plan, “it all worked out. We wanted to give back to Jackson. We prayed about, we were in agreement and, voila.”
To that end, Carter and Evans hope to marry their two worlds, ministry and business, with free cuts and styles to the underprivileged. “We want to be not only profitable, but charitable, giving back to the community,” Evans says, “especially during back to school.”
Carter recounts the story of a neighbor kid who would get off the school bus every day during the rehab of her property. He remarked on the noise, the painting and finally the finished and colorful product. Now, Carter sometimes has afternoon snacks for him and is teaching him a thing or two about art appreciation. For her, it really is more than business happening in her corner of Fondren.
“I always pray I can be a blessing to people. And this is special. If God brought us this far, He’ll take us the rest of the way. That’s what I think and that’s what will be.”
Fondren Studio and Hair Gallery, a full service salon for men and women, is open Tuesday — Saturday at 228 East Mitchell Avenue. Walk-ins are welcome.