In 1944, it was near impossible for Kimberly Brown’s grandparents to open a salon in Portland. This was because the city was overly segregated and mounted invincible barriers for the Black working class to access loans.
However, through perseverance and tenacity to leave a legacy, they secured a throat-cutting loan to put up the salon which will now be known as the Deans Beauty Salon and Barber Shop on the 215 N.E. Hancock St.
The resilience of the Browns has paid off following an announcement by the Portland authorities to include the salon in the National Register of Historic Places.
Brown, who is the owner of Deans Beauty Salon and Barber Shop, said her grandparents, who were salon stylists, will be proud of this day. “My grandparents died long ago. They’d be shocked, excited, and proud of all that’s happened,” Brown told OregonLive.
She said her grandparents migrated from Alabama to Portland in the 1940s with the dream of building a Black-owned business. She recounted that her grandparents were faced with stark difficulties when they saved money and decided to buy a home on Hancock Street.
Brown added that when they succeeded in acquiring the block, they had to operate the salon from their basement because of racial segregation at the time. She said this was in spite of the fact that her grandfather had a license to barber from Portland and her grandmother had a certificate in hair styling from Alabama.
She indicated that the sad part of her grandparent’s history was that they were frustrated by local banks in Portland from expanding their business. She said the financial institutions rejected loan requests from Black entrepreneurs while such facilities were readily available to lend to white businesses.
But for the determination of the two, Brown noted, the salon would not have made it to the history books.
The Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop may not be a plush and glamorous center, but, it has embedded in it a rich black history of tenacity and resilience dating over 60 years.
Brown said she will hold a memorial party in front of the salon in honor of the milestone and recognition of the struggles of her grandparents.
The founders of the salon are Benjamin and Mary Rose Dean. Their salon made it on the national registry largely thanks to a customer called Kimberly Moreland.