Beauty supply store empowers Black children to love their hair

Shirley P. Olin

CLIFTON PARK — When Stefanie Thomas was growing up in a predominately white neighborhood in Glens Falls she had to drive over forty-five minutes to find hair products for her kinky curly hair.

“Growing up I didn’t know what to do with my hair,” Thomas said. “My mother’s white and she had no idea what to do with my hair. I wanted to fit in, so I would straighten my hair, I was teased as a kid because my hair was puffy so I developed deep-rooted insecurity about my hair and took that into my adulthood.”

As Thomas’ own daughter, age 10, began to grow up and develop insecurities about her own hair, Thomas wanted better for her. That’s why Thomas decided to open Stefanie’s Beauty Supply  in Clifton Park, featuring a wide range of products for curly hair. 

The store, located at 54 Crossing Blvd., sells hair, wigs, extensions, and products for all types of curly hair, but it also is dedicated to helping children accept their hair. A huge black chalkboard makes up an empowerment wall where children can draw or write how they feel about their hair, and pose for a picture. Nearby are shelves with children’s’ books about racism and self-love and accepting your hair and skin color.

“I’ll ask the child, what is your favorite thing about yourself?” Thomas said. “Usually they’ll answer. The younger ones will just scribble [on the wall], which is fine too.” 

The store opened in December 2020, but due to the pandemic, Thomas waited to have her ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday as the Spring weather welcomes more foot traffic and more customers are vaccinated.

“I have been living here for almost three years and we didn’t really know anyone, and since I’ve opened the store I’ve met so many wonderful Black families I had no idea existed in this area,” Thomas said.

Thomas studied criminal justice at Boston University, and began teaching at Hudson Valley Community College upon graduating until Covid-19 forced her to stay home to take care of her children.

“I couldn’t go on campus and teach because my kids were online learning at home, so I was just kind of stuck,” Thomas said. Thomas is excited that the pandemic brought her this new opportunity and plans to pursue it for the foreseeable future. One day, she thinks she will get back into criminal justice work.

“If you have curly hair, or any kind of curl pattern, I have products that you need. It is not just for people that resemble myself, but I did do the store for us,” Thomas said. “Anyone with curly hair can come in, and they do, but my customers are typically the Black and Brown community, which is nice.” 

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the store is 4 p.m. Thursday.

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