June 8, 2023
Janice Butcher (Pictures by Lauren Thomas)

One of many legendary historic homes right here within the Hudson Valley is Villa Lewaro in Irvington, constructed by America’s first feminine self-made millionaire, Madam C. J. Walker. Orphaned at age 7 and unschooled, Madame Walker went from working as a home servant in childhood to extraordinary success and affect by formulating, manufacturing and advertising skin- and hair-care merchandise particularly for African American ladies. She hobnobbed with the likes of Langston Hughes, Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune and W. E. B. DuBois, grew to become a extremely revered philanthropist, educated 1000’s of ladies to develop into unbiased entrepreneurs and hosted conferences of the Black intelligentsia of the early 20th century in her Italianate mansion.

“I’ve at all times recognized about Madam C. J. Walker. She’s an inspiration to me,” says Janice Butcher, who has simply opened JBee Magnificence Provide in New Paltz. The city’s first and solely emporium for magnificence merchandise for girls of coloration, JBee represents the fruits of a longtime dream for Butcher, a Harlem native who got here to New Paltz as a SUNY scholar in 1984. “After I first got here up right here to go to highschool, I’d have to return right down to New York Metropolis to get merchandise or have my hair braided. It was cumbersome,” she recollects. “At that time they didn’t actually have something.”

The issue, for younger Butcher and lots of others, was that merchandise designed for white folks’s hair varieties merely didn’t serve the wants of Black folks. “Our hair, when it’s messed with an excessive amount of, the hair breaks off. That’s as a result of the follicle is smaller, which is what creates tighter curls,” she explains. “My sort of hair is of course dry as a result of the coils are tight.” She notes, nonetheless, that “Everybody’s Black hair isn’t dry. After years of realizing your hair, you understand what you’ll be able to and might’t do, as a result of we’re all so totally different.”

The merchandise that Black shoppers needed, however couldn’t discover in shops catering to a largely white clientele, included many moisturizing therapies, resembling what Butcher describes as “actual hair grease,” made by Royal Crown, Queen Helene Ldl cholesterol conditioner and one other actually known as Hair Meals. One widespread producer was Dax, which made pomade, shampoo and a product for males known as Dax Wave, in addition to urgent oil: “If you straighten your hair, you want that.” Relaxers have been arduous to search out within the days when white ladies have been largely getting perms, and most colours and rinses weren’t designed to work with Black hair.

In her youth, Butcher says, “I used to put on my hair in braids, however I couldn’t get hair to braid in.” These additions — which will be both artificial or dearer human hair — serve not solely to elongate the braids, but additionally to assist defend personal’s personal hair from breaking off. The extensions can merely be braided in, or woven, crocheted, sewn to present hair and even glued in. “I don’t advocate gluing,” cautions Butcher.

To accommodate her underserved clientele, JBee’s carries each artificial and human hair, instantaneous ponytails (“They’re widespread with Latinas,” she says) and dreadlock twists. On the best cabinets are displayed a wide array of wigs in lots of colours by producers resembling Vivica Fox and Beverley Johnson. “I’ve to get some gray wigs. They’re arduous to search out,” she notes as she offers HV1 a tour of the store.

Butcher makes a degree of carrying among the outdated “basic” hair care merchandise of her youth, together with newer variations. Manufacturers on show embrace All Methods Pure, Doo Gro, Murray’s, Africa’s Greatest Organics, Fantasia IC, Blue Magic, Only for Males, Sanek, New Period, Barbicide, Mane n’ Tail, Darkish and Pretty, Lustrasilk and lots of extra. She gives a smaller collection of skincare merchandise as properly, together with fade cream and lotions, and plans to develop these traces as properly sooner or later. However the principle focus right here is on, properly, manes.

As with the assorted shades of pores and skin coloration amongst folks of African American descent, there’s an entire social hierarchy round hair varieties, Butcher explains. She’s not a fan of individuals being advised, “You will have good hair,” as a result of “good” can indicate “extra like European hair.” “You get judged by your coiffure,” she says. “I used to put on a wig typically once I went on job interviews.” It wasn’t till 2022, when the US Congress handed the Making a Respectful and Open World for Pure Hair Act, better-known because the CROWN Act, that discrimination primarily based on coiffure and hair texture grew to become unlawful. Her personal youngest son Devin was pressured to shave when he joined the wrestling group at New Paltz Excessive Faculty, she recollects.

So, the addition of a magnificence merchandise store to serve folks of coloration in the neighborhood represents an essential step towards lessening among the additional every day challenges of “present whereas Black.” Butcher, who majored in Psychology with a focus in Particular Schooling and spent most of her skilled profession working in human providers on the County and State stage earlier than taking early retirement final 12 months, has performed loads of work with younger folks in her life. In 2015, she was impressed to create JBee’s guardian firm, Brains & Magnificence, whose “complete level was to permit ladies and men and youngsters to appreciate that they have been ‘fearfully and splendidly made’ — to really feel empowered.”

Right this moment, she envisions her new store as “a spot for folks to heal and be your self: a protected place, greater than only a retailer.” The motto of the corporate is “Be Robust, Be Stunning, Be You.” The partitions are painted a soothing shade of orchid, and Butcher retains the lights low when prospects aren’t inspecting the merchandise. Behind tender draperies is a again room the place a cosmetologist takes shoppers a few days every week; Butcher’s assortment of miniature elephant collectible figurines parades alongside one counter the place sinks was, when this area – a part of a set at 1-3 Henry W. DuBois Drive — was residence to Jem Hair Salon.

Outdoors the door, a poster of Madam C. J. Walker features a quote from the pioneering businesswoman: “Don’t sit down and await the alternatives to come back – stand up and make them.” Right here in New Paltz, a modern-day Madam Walker is blazing a comparable path. Come on in, say howdy to J. B. herself and take a look at the wonderland of hair care merchandise between midday and 6 p.m. Tuesday by Saturday at JBee Magnificence Provide.

A Grand Opening with refreshments and a free reward for the primary 100 prospects is deliberate for Wednesday, April 26 from midday to three p.m. For extra info, go to www.fb.com/Jbeebeautysupply or @jbeebeautysupply on Instagram.