ABOVE PHOTO: Dean’s Barber Shop and Beauty Salon owner Kim Brown. COURTESY PHOTO: ENERGY TRUST OF OREGON
Roots run deep at Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop.
It’s the kind of place where “new” clients have been going for a dozen years, where “family” isn’t just blood relatives but several generations of friends and neighbors — and their friends and neighbors.
“We’re loyal to the soil,” owner Kim Brown said recently, remembering how folks called or stopped by her house with support or gifts when the salon was closed during the early months of COVID-19.
That’s how things are at Dean’s, Portland’s longest-running, continuously Black-owned business. Brown’s grandparents, Benjamin and Mary Rose Dean, opened the shop in 1956. Mary Rose had her stylist license from the Madam C.J. Walker School of Beauty and had been doing hair from their house but needed more space.
The Deans came to Portland from Alabama in the 1940s during the early decades of the Great Migration, when millions of Black southerners moved north to escape segregation under Jim Crow.
In a nod to the shop’s importance to Portland’s African American community, the state recently supported Brown’s nomination to include the salon in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
“They built the shop, and the rest was history,” Brown said. “It was never something to get rich on. It was always something that was ours, and that the family could continue on.”
Brown’s mother, Gloria Tims, took over in 1979. When Tims retired, the shop passed to Brown. One day, she expects her sons to run a business from the storefront.
Kim Brown is the third generation of her family to own and operate Dean’s Salon and Barber Shop. “It’s a very personal job,” she said. “There are some families that have been coming in the shop as long as I’ve been alive.”
DEAN’S BARBER SHOP AND BEAUTY SALON
Kim Brown swapped her salon’s fluorescent lighting for energy-efficient LEDs with the support of Energy Trust, which helped her save money on her business’s energy bills.
COURTESY PHOTO: ENERGY TRUST OF OREGON
The neighborhood around the shop has changed over the decades as new developments came in and longtime residents moved farther out, but the past remains present at Dean’s.
Portraits of Brown’s grandparents line the walls, along with clients’ school photos, family portraits, and candid smiles from above the stylists’ workstations. Newspaper clippings highlight athletic and business achievements across the decades. And a display cabinet in the front room holds photos of Dean’s friends and family with visiting dignitaries — including portraits with three presidents: George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Unfortunately, the salon recently needed to raise its prices slightly to help absorb rising costs from inflation.
“At the end of the day, everything has went up,” Brown said. She looked for ways to save and found one solution through the Energy Trust of Oregon.
In February, the salon swapped its outdated fluorescent tube lights for energy-efficient LED versions, a change that will shave an estimated $200 a year off its energy bills. Brown qualified for the free upgrade through Energy Trust’s no-cost lighting offer for small businesses.
“My motivator is to make sure that the shop is in its best possible condition when I turn it over to my children,” she said. “If that’s solar panels at some point, because that’s going to be the wave of the future, or if it’s new lighting, or if it’s tearing out a wall and putting another shampoo bowl in, whatever it is, I will do it to facilitate that. And if I can get some help to do it, then I’m all for it.”
Dean’s didn’t have to close during the lighting project because the contractor worked around the stylists’ schedules. That sort of flexibility may seem small, but Brown said it was a significant benefit since Dean’s has staggered appointments to keep occupancy low during the pandemic.
Asked if she would recommend the incentive program to other small businesses, Brown didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely,” she said. “It was seamless. Everything went perfectly.”
To see how Energy Trust can help your business run better with energy-saving tips and resources, go online (energytrust.org/for-business).