Black-owned North Park barber salon trying to keep fairytale story alive amid coronavirus

Posted at 10:36 AM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 21:49:25-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A North Park barber salon is on the brink of shutting down due to the coronavirus.

Melissa and Christopher Cage met in high school. Melissa grew up in Watts and Christopher grew up in West L.A.

"I love it, you know, it made me who I am. It made me strong," Melissa said.

Christopher said it was a dangerous place to grow up, "shootings, drive-bys, everything. That's why I wanted to get my kids away from that."

They got married and in 2013, Christopher was laid off. They had three kids with a fourth on the way and at that moment he said he would never work for someone else again.

He went to barber school. Five and a half years ago the family picked up and moved to San Diego with a dollar in Christopher's pocket.

"I think I gave my last dollar to a bum," he said, his wife nodding behind him.

They were grateful to live in their aunt's living room as they saved up for a new place.

They built up enough money to rent a run-down North Park house. They remodeled it and created Originality Barber Salon. Christopher has a row of barber chairs in the front half of the business and Melissa has a serene intimate salon in the back.

Their challenges didn't end when the doors opened. Melissa said their biggest challenge was being accepted by the neighborhood.

In 2018, someone spray-painted a racial slur in front of their shop. They cleaned it up and used it as motivation to succeed.

"I'm not going to fight hate with hate, I'm not going anywhere so you're just going to keep seeing me, so might as well," Melissa said.

When the pandemic first hit, they kept their positive attitude, looking at it as a vacation.

"It was a vacation but then it started to get a longer vacation and I'm like okay, we're starting to dip into our savings now. I'm like we need to start figuring something out," she said.

They were able to reopen for a few weeks, due to the county orders, and then, forced to close again.

Multiple loan applications were denied. They said they were trudging through the permitting process to work outside. When Monday came and barbers could once again work indoors, Chris said it could be too late.

They have a child with health issues, putting her at greater risk for catching the coronavirus, so they're trying to balance safety with finances.

The couple said their goal of the business is to leave something for their children. They hope to break down barriers and elevate their childrens' opportunities.

At the request of friends, they created a GoFundMe page here.

The San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce created the Black Business Relief Grant Fund to help businesses facing struggles like Originality Barber Salon. For more information on the grant click here.

Chris and Melissa are hoping to receive a grant during the fund's second round of giving, in September.