June 3, 2015 Edition

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James Beauty Salon closes
after 48 years of service

Norma Taylor (seated) has spent 48 years of her life in the beauty shop business, and close friends and patrons Sharon Kennedy (left) and Roma Dell Aaron have been with her since the start. Norma retired Saturday.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

After 48 years of service, James Beauty Salon in Walnut Ridge closed its doors on Saturday as Norma Taylor retired from the hair dressing business.

April 6, 1967, is when the shop opened, Norma said, without a second's hesitation. Since that time, she and her husband, the late James Taylor, have owned wig shops in Little Rock, Blytheville and Union City and a dog kennel capable of housing as many as 250 dogs in Black Rock.

But through all the other business ventures the Taylors took on through the years, they always made time to run their small beauty shop, located in the Plaza Center on Hwy. 67B North.

Their daughter, Angela (Angie) Pandora Barnett of Baltimore, Md., said it's really the American dream that her parents were able to achieve. "They put themselves through cosmetology school while working other jobs and raising a baby." After that, Barnett said they were able to open and keep a small business alive in a small town, in the same building no less, through every economic struggle.

However, it was hardly luck that kept the shop going. Anybody who has met Norma or James knows they are the reason the shop was such a success.

"My mom and dad worked together," Barnett said. "I watched my parents work 10-12 hour days every day."

Long-time patron of the beauty shop, Sue Brand, said Norma is one of the hardest workers out there and she never complained, even when life got hard.

When James passed in November, Norma carried on the business. While she said it is still too hard to talk about James much, Marvin Kennedy, fresh from a Norma Taylor haircut made sure to speak on her behalf.

"He was as good a friend as you could ever ask for," Marvin said with his arm around Norma's shoulder. "We, all that knew him, we miss him tremendously."

Marvin's wife, Sharon Kennedy, was counted as the longest patron of the beauty shop having been there all 48 years. In that time, Norma and Sharon have become close friends. "She's just a part of my life," Sharon said.

Sharon, having retired from teaching 12 years ago, said she understands the difficult transition Norma has to go through. "Being a teacher is who I was," she said. Much in the same way, she said Norma will face challenges in letting go of the beauty shop. "It becomes who you are."

While there are many parts of the job Norma will miss, it didn't take long for her to come up with her favorite part of the job. "My people. My customers. They are my life line," she said with a smile. "I've had some wonderful people."

And some of those wonderful people spent time with Norma during the last days of the shop and much laughter and tears were shared amongst the friends.

Roma Dell Aaron, another 48-year-long patron, announced that she was just going to take Norma home with her.

Brand, who has been going to the beauty shop for 46 years, said, "There's nothing bad I can say about Norma. She's been the kind of friend that everybody needs."

"I think the world of her," Marvin said.

Barnett said the relationships her mother built through the beauty shop just show the special gift that she has. "Dad was loud, I'm loud, but my mom's not, but she is a good listener," she said.

Beyond just listening, Norma was confidant to many.

"Whatever was shared did not come out at the dinner table. It did not come out to the next customer," Barnett said.

"She's a person you could tell anything and it stayed there," Brand said.

Norma had plenty of interesting people to listen to over the years.

"Her customers were stewards of the community. They were teachers, wives and mothers, community leaders," Barnett said. "At the beauty shop, they came together and were equal. It was not a place of gossip but a place of friendship. They came together and became friends with each other."

Barnett, who is the president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Maryland, said much of her success and the success of her daughter, Stephanie Taylor Bond of Dallas, is owed to her parents and being raised with a working mother and grandmother. She said through them, she learned what it took to be a strong woman, and she was reminded constantly that family love is the most important thing to have in life.

Barnett said her mother extended that type of love to her customers and prepared the hair of several of them for burial.

"That was my mom's way of saying goodbye, Barnett said. She also said it was a truly selfless act her mother did when preparing them for the last time their loved ones would see them.

"That was the last thing I could do for them," Norma said.

Barnett said she has learned so much from the people who walked before her, and she learned many valuable lessons in that beauty shop.

However, Norma wasn't always so sure about the life of a hairdresser. In fact, in her younger years, she didn't want to do it at all, mostly because that's what her mother, Adelaide Maddox, did.

"I said I'd never do it and I've been here 48 years," Norma said.

Barnett may have taken a different path in life, partly to do with the fact that she said she couldn't cut hair to save her life. However, she will never forget being raised in the beauty shop and what it still means to her today.

"I had a bassinette and a crib and learned to walk in my grandmother's beauty shop, and my daughter had a bassinette and a crib and learned to walk in my mother's beauty shop," she said.

With no big plans for retirement, Norma said the biggest thing she is looking forward to continuing a tradition started with James years ago. The two went on 27 cruises together over the years, and Norma has one scheduled for November with her daughter and sister, Martha Morgan.

"I love the time aboard ship," she said.

Though she's had to overcome some hard times and maybe had a different life planned out during her adolescence, she loved what she did.

"I've enjoyed my time here, I really have. I've never regretted it. Actually, it's been a pleasure to me."

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