Justina McLean's father raised her and her brother, George Jerkins Jr., to be self-reliant, impressing upon them the importance of being in business for themselves, and both took that lesson to heart.
Jerkins Jr. runs a restaurant called BBQ Willie's, which is in the midst of a move from Sea Isle City to Egg Harbor Township, and McLean runs her own bookkeeping and accounting business. Still, she's always on the lookout for something more.
McLean, who is African-American, has been forced to travel to Pleasantville or Atlantic City to find hairdressers who could handle her hair, and these trips proved a hassle for the Galloway Township resident. When salon Turnin' All Headz opened on Philadelphia Avenue in Egg Harbor City early last year, that problem was solved, but the salon folded in a matter of months.
Yet despite the venture's failure, McLean saw potential.
"We talked to a few people in the area," McLean said. "Everybody was saying, 'Yeah, we need something.'"
McLean and her husband and partner Donald signed the lease for the property in December, and on Jan. 5, they opened Lexy's Hair Affair, located at 258 Philadelphia Ave., for business.
Lexy's Hair Affair offers a variety of services, including haircuts, color, weaves, blow-outs and braids for all hair types from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. To make an appointment, call 609-593-6288 or email email@example.com. Walk-ins are welcome.
McLean herself is no hairdresser, but she's familiar with the business side of the industry, having helped her cousin, Danielle Ruiz, with her Northfield salon and another friend with hers in Pleasantville.
But while McLean may not know hair, she knows how to build a staff that does. After signing the lease, she contacted senior stylist and manager Rorie Alexander and receptionist Costella Selby, who had worked at Turnin' All Headz, and both joined the team. She found senior stylist Daniel Glick through a friend, and brought in her cousin, Malisha Jerkins, as a junior stylist.
Honorary partner Alexys, the couple's 9-year-old daughter for whom the salon was named, is also a fixture at the shop after school.
Alexys is a budding fashionista who hopes to become a stylist someday. For now, though, Alexys is relegated to watching and helping on the computer, a job for which she's already showing her aptitude.
"She knows the computers better than I do," Alexander said. "She loves this place. She's advanced for a 9-year-old. That computer system is advanced."
While the first salon's abrupt failure raised questions about the viability of such a business in the area, they have quickly been answered. In its first three weeks, Lexy's hair affair had brought in nearly 100 different customers, which is a pretty strong early showing, five-year industry veteran Alexander said.
What's more, business has been steady on off-days as well as weekends, Alexander said, which bodes well for the salon's future.
"Already, Saturdays have been really good for us, and random Tuesdays have been really good," Alexander said Jan. 24. "It's busy in here now. I think it's going to really take off."
McLean doesn't lack for ambition and is already looking to start offering manicures sometime next month. The current location is a bit small to house what she hopes becomes a full-service salon that includes full nail offerings and a massage parlor, and she's looking to move to a larger location in about three years, she said.
Of course, McLean's greatest hope is that Alexys will take over the salon when she retires. So far, it looks like that dream will be realized.
"She's already saying, "Mommy, where are we going to put our next salon at?'" McLean said.
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