Andrea has been in the natural hair business for over ten years, but her love for hairstyling started early on. “My mother comes from a family of seventeen, so someone was always getting married, and I was always a little flower girl,” she shared, which fostered her interest in beauty and style. As such, it was unsurprising that upon leaving her home in Barbados to emigrate to the U.S. in 2006, hairdressing was her occupation of choice. Even after taking a break from the business to pursue work as a caretaker and companion for the elderly for several years, her passion for the craft compelled her to open her own salon in 2013.
Intrigued by her decision to work solely with natural hair, I asked Andrea what brought her to this occupation. She explained that the reasons were twofold: as a young teenager, her mother did not allow her to put chemicals in her hair, and then, coincidently, she found she was actually allergic to those chemicals upon entering the salon environment as an adult. Thus began her dedication to “keeping hair in its natural state,” which means Andrea does not work with any chemicals, heat, or straighteners.
The space reflects her atypical nature. Andrea said the concept behind her design was to represent a home away from home, a comfortable place for her clients to relax - a necessity given that her dedication to natural styling means services can take several hours to complete. The colorful cushioned chairs, lovely flower arrangements, and warm, friendly conversations certainly achieve the calm, cozy effect she was hoping to create.
Our visit to Engine 69/Ladder 28 only confirmed what I have known since I began walking the side streets of Manhattan: Firemen are some of the friendliest people in the city. When we knocked on the door to the station, we were immediately welcomed in and invited to join the firemen in their air-conditioned break room. We were happy to escape the heat outside and enjoyed the chance to learn about what makes their station unique. The station was nicknamed the “Harlem Hilton, ” we were told, shortly after the gas crisis that hit the city in the 1970s. To avoid wasting extra gas by making too many trips between their houses and the station, many men chose to sleep over, hence earning the firehouse its name and their reputation as “a hospitable bunch. ” The men were kind enough to let us visit their kitchen and dining room, where they proudly showed off the long table where they eat. It is made out of the floor of an old bowling alley. No one was sure about the origins of the table or the reasons behind its placement in their kitchen, but we all agreed that it added another quirky, albeit mysterious, element in the firehouse’s hundred-year history.