The Shutdown Come Up of Sherlonda Hamilton

The Shutdown Come Up of Sherlonda Hamilton

PHOTOS COURTESY OF PRETTY LADY ROLLIN’ MOBILE HAIR SALON

It was 380 BC when Greek writer and philosopher Plato wrote in his work, The Republic, "our need will be the real creator." Over time, Plato's words would be rephrased and Americanized to the familiar declaration, "Necessity is the mother of invention." This declaration took on new meaning in 2020 when COVID-19 mercilessly bullied its way into our lives and forced us to reimage and invent ways to do what we once did with effortless ease.

You remember how necessity stretched us within our homes, turning kitchens into classrooms, living rooms into offices, and garages into gyms. Outside of our homes was yet another place necessity shook things up, and for hairstylist Sherlonda Hamilton, the shakeup turned out to be an unexpected come up.  

She'd been doing hair at the family-owned Pretty Lady Salon for twenty-six years in the 4500 block of Wellington, south of Crenshaw. For Hamilton and the other stylists, "Health of hair was the priority." This was intuitively Hamilton's focus as a sixteen-year-old doing hair on her grandmother's front porch and was later reinforced at the start of her professional career as a Pacific Beauty School student under the leadership of the school's founder, Mr. Cedric Goines.

"One week and I decided, 'This might have to be permanent.’”

As thorough as the late Mr. Goines was in the cosmetology space, he did not know how to teach what to do when a global pandemic comes and shuts everything down. Absent a guide, Hamilton did what we all did initially, she kept her eyes glued to the TV in shock as shutdowns and restrictions were announced. Trying to go along, she thought, "I need to buckle down and ride it out." With weeks and months adding up, she tried to take comfort in her grandfather's "hold steady" mantra. But at the three-month mark, Hamilton decided things were taking too long, and with all due respect to her grandfather, holding steady had run its course.

Her first plan, work out of the salon ever so discretely, one client at a time. Her second plan, mask up and go to the client's home. Neither method felt quite right, which led Hamilton to ask herself who was not impacted by the shutdowns. The answer: trucks --- food trucks, more specifically. "They [food trucks] were still able to drive to a location and serve people. Then there was a mobile, stationary barber truck on Manchester. Me and my father started doing research. It took three and a half months to find a truck and get a team to put everything together. I started the foundation myself using YouTube and Pinterest."

With a commitment to just do something every day, five months after necessity's push in December 2020, Hamilton had a fully loaded mobile salon with all the bells and whistles. Before you applaud, she would have me tell you that this was no easy task. From being turned down for fifteen Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to having to get knee surgery, seeing her savings shrink, and not always finding the supplies needed when she needed them, Hamilton had reasons to be discouraged. But with supportive clients who loved the idea of a mobile salon, a father who cheered her on, a son who finished the flooring when her knee was out of commission, a neighbor who put the framing around the walls of the truck, a daughter who helped with the design/layout, and intensifying exhilaration about seeing herself do something she'd never done, the thought never crossed her mind to turn back.

Beautiful with love in every detail, nothing about the mobile salon suggests a layperson constructed it. By the time I sat down with Hamilton in the heart of downtown Culver City, the truck had been well broken in, and the experience was exceeding all expectations. "One week and I decided, 'This might have to be permanent,'" she gleefully reminisces. She's gone from seeing clients solely at her salon in Los Angeles before the pandemic to serving clients in Chino Hills, Hawthorne, Monrovia, Lakewood, Long Beach, Paramount, Granada Hills, Fullerton, and Temecula because of the pandemic.

No overhead, growing profit, a more flexible schedule, being outside, attracting new clients merely from driving around, and interest from other beauticians, has Hamilton, with her heights set on building two more mobile hair salon trucks to lease out. She's had to hire an assistant to manage appointments for her growing clientele. And she's basking in the doctor's report of lower blood pressure since removing some of the day-to-day stressors of running a brick-and-mortar salon. All of this because Hamilton dared to lean in when COVID-19 threatened her ability to keep empowering women.

Follow Sherlonda Hamilton and the Pretty Lady Mobile Salon on IG @prettyladyhairsalon.

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