OSHKOSH – Every time Lovely Anderson traveled to Chicago to visit family, she would stock up on “the essentials” — hair supplies for her five daughters — knowing they were difficult to find in the Oshkosh area.
That was in 2017. In 2021, Anderson is hoping to eliminate that problem for parents like her with A&H Beauty Vanity, a Black-owned beauty supply store in Oshkosh that opened Aug. 23 in Suite 18/19 located inside Sola Salon, 1830 Jackson St.
“If I do this, I can help other people,” Anderson said Wednesday while hanging up supplies in her shop.
A&H Beauty Vanity started as a successful online business in December, but Anderson said she is still surprised with how excited customers have been — she sold out of wigs within a week, adding those and kids’ hair accessories have been the biggest sellers.
“The first week has been eye-opening and overwhelming, but I’m thankful,” she said. “I didn’t think it would go as well as it has been.”
A&H Beauty Vanity customers can purchase everything from hair coloring products, grease, relaxers and silicone mix to head bands, wigs and more. She has a small line of men’s care products including beard oils and dreadlock clips. There’s also an entire wall of hair accessories, including barrettes, balls and beads for little girls like her own.
She makes a point to feature Black-owned brands such as Mielle, As I Am, Taliah Wajid, Thank God Its Natural (TGIN) and Debonair Beard Co.
“My goal is to be a full beauty supply store, a one-stop shop,” Anderson said. The around-400-square-foot shop is small, but she hopes one day to transition to a larger space.
Anderson moved to Oshkosh from Denver, Colorado, in August 2017 and immediately noticed the lack of Black-owned beauty supply stores. Outside of limited selections at Family Dollar, Walmart and Sally’s, she said there aren’t many options besides online shopping.
A&H Beauty Vanity is also affordable, which she said was important. Anderson is able to sell her products a little cheaper because she orders in bulk with a group of Black beauty supply owners she’s connected with from around the country.
The name comes from the first letter of her last name and her boyfriend’s (Anderson and, his, Henry). Though he isn’t too involved in the everyday operations, she said he’s always been supportive.
“It was always an idea in my cap, but when we first met and I told him what I wanted to do, he said, ‘That’s what you are going to do,'” she said. “I feel like it really happened because of that push.”
Another push came from hearing there wasn’t a market for ethnic hair products in Oshkosh, and that many beauty-supply stores fail in smaller communities (at least two have opened and closed in Oshkosh). That didn’t scare her, though. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“I was driven by people saying, ‘Oh, in Oshkosh? It’s not going to work because there aren’t enough African Americans,'” she said. “If I do something, you better believe it’s going to work. If it doesn’t, I’m going to make it work.”
While she wants to serve the community’s Black population, she believes the store can cater to the needs of all underrepresented populations.
Sometimes she worries about not having enough product variety, but she knows she has the passion and drive to help her community — and she’s just getting started. When she gets nervous, she just waits for the next person to walk through her door.
“When they come in, I feel like I can breathe a little bit better, and they make me feel really good,” she said.