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The Pine Hills’ Hair Whisperer

May 13, 2013

Jessie blows out a customer’s hair/Lolita Avila

This time, with the city’s blessing, hair beautician Jessica Hodgson is open for business in her Quail Street home. After many difficulties, Hodgson was granted a zoning permit allowing her to operate her salon in a residential area. Her one woman hair salon is located between State and Spring streets.

Hodgson is a unique hair stylist who specializes in ethnic hair grooming. The ironic part is that “Jessie,” her preferred nickname, is of Caucasian descent. In fact, her customers are African American women ranging from ages 14 to 40-years-old. For most hair stylists working with virgin African American hair is problematic because it takes more time to groom. However, Hodgson’s best work concentrates on managing coarse hair and chemical straightening. Her pricing for hair is generally affordable. She charges $20 for a wash and set, approximately $40 for relaxers, and $5 extra for a hair cut. On the average, she schedules three customers a day.

Hodgson said she has at least 21 reliable clients, some of whom followed her from her previous places of employment.
She prefers to work from home because of the flexibility. Hodgson likes to have free time to assist at the Delaware Community School, where her two daughters attend. She volunteers for science fairs and chaperones field trips. Outside of school she takes her children to soccer and baseball practice. Her main goal is to be a stay-at-home mother while continuing her career.

Hodgson obtained her business license when she first purchased her Pine Hills home in 2004. Her license legitimized her hair salon. However, this entrepreneur  failed to realize she also needed a zoning permit. In 2006, a neighbor reported Hodgson’s business and shortly after she was issued a stop work order from the city. Along with a $250  fine, the immediate halt of her business greatly impacted Hodgson financially. She went from working seven days a week to occasional hair appointments.

A year ago, Hodgson rented out a hair salon on Quail Street for $800 a month. After six years of little business, she eagerly went back to working full time. The opening of her shop was a huge success. Within the first week she attracted about 12 customers a day. While Hodgson only kept the salon for 10 months, she promoted her skills to the community.

Then she wanted to return to her stay-at-home mom status. She disliked the time constraints of having a salon because it forced her to be in the shop frequently. She felt the salon restricted her from involvement in her daughters’ lives. Now with the right permit, Hodgson works from her home again and manages all her appointments between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Some people question how a woman of Caucasian decent knows a great deal about ethnic hair. Hodgson admits that she has to prove her skills more because she is a white woman styling African American hair.

“I learned in beauty school how to style Black hair, it has always been a natural talent of mine. I understood the type of hair and I just perfected my craft,” she said.

Since her toddler days, Hodgson always wanted to be a hair stylist. She recalls chopping off the hair of Barbie dolls and having the urge to braid anything she could get her hands on.

At age 17, she attended BOCES for beauty school, which was offered through her high school in Monticello, downstate. During high school, she trained for 650 hours. She moved to Glenmont, an Albany suburb and by the age of 20  she had received her cosmetology license from the Educational Opportunity Center. She had also volunteered at Unique Dimensions,  a hair salon located on Delaware Avenue.

Shortly after receiving her license Hodgson moved to Albany. Her first job was at Master Cuts in Crossgates Mall however, her employment there was brief. Within two months, she received a call from Doug Ivy, the owner of Unique Dimensions. Ivy was impressed with her skills and dedication and offered Hodgson a chair in his salon. For $200 a month and a permanent booth at Dimensions, Hodgson kicked off her career. She started working at Dimensions in 2000 and stayed until the birth of her first daughter, Lauryn.

While Hodgson does not advertise her own salon, word of mouth spread.

“My clients are my walking advertisements,” she said. Her customers promote her business by telling their friends, and by also bringing in their family members.

One client in particular, Antoinette Jackson, has been going to Hodgson faithfully for about six months. She has even brought her daughter to get her hair done. Jackson admires Hodgson’s knowledge of black hair and thoroughness with grooming.

Jessie gives pincurls to a customer/Lolita Avila

Jessie gives pin curls to a customer/Lolita Avila

“Jessie cares and will give you the best advice for your hair. Most salons will just do things because you are paying them to do so not because it is good for your hair,” Jackson said.

For instance, as a personal policy Hodgson does not install weave because she said it damages hair.

One of Hodgson’s newest clients is 20-year-old Natasha Williams. Williams decided to give Hodgson a chance because of the reviews she heard.

“She is always so energetic and genuinely seems passionate about what she does. It makes me trust her” said Williams.

While Hodgson’s dreams of moving to New York City and becoming a big time hair stylist have changed, Hodgson is happy with her career path. She prides herself in being a single mom and managing her own salon. Her main goal is to make her customers feel comfortable and happy. Her sincerity, knowledge, and understanding is what sets her aside from other hair stylists.

“I prefer intimate settings, not having to rush, building personable relationships” said Hodgson.-30-


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