GAINESVILLE — TeQuilla Williams-Yarbrough has a passion for hair, which she turned into a mission for her community.
One morning she was awakened by a voice telling her to find a space for a salon — even though she was a hair instructor. Williams-Yarbrough landed at an old business on Martin Luther King Blvd. in Gainesville.
"In looking at the building, it was surrounded by trees, it was not noticeable, it wasn’t pleasing to the eye when passing by," she said. "This was a red and white building on the outside. The previous tenants painted the floors red, the walls red; it was just a straight concrete floor."
The building, constructed in 1950, has many architectural elements typical of mid-century modern design. Mitch Whitmire, project manager at H. Lloyd Hill Architects and Associates Inc. in Gainesville, said the cement floor and concrete block walls are typical of that era.
"There are a lot of different materials, for one, and they probably used a lot more wood," Whitmire said. "Nowadays, you have composite materials, plastic, particle boards. Before, it was more wood from saw mills, full cut size 2-by-4s and 2-by-6s."
The building had formerly been Blake’s Barber Shop and Martin’s Grocery Store, and it has sentimental value for Williams-Yarbrough.
"My son’s father learned how to barber in this building," she said.
Even though the walls and concrete floors weren’t ideal, Williams-Yarbrough got a design together and began changing the property. She needed to have the building rezoned and she changed the red concrete walls. And along the way, she lost $9,000 through a bad contractor.
"I said, ‘I won’t be defeated,’" she said. "I had to be in an area where my clients would be able to come to me, even if they had to walk. I wanted to be in a central location where people are on every end.
"I felt like it wasn’t just a job for me, it was a mission."
Owner of the property, local attorney Dan Summer, said there is a need for historic buildings to be renovated and not just tossed to the wayside.
"Buildings tell a story about the history of the community," said Summer, also of Summer Historic Acquisitions. "If you take away the historic buildings of the community ... they are the reference point, the focal point. They give people memories and an orientation of time and space. It’s important for them to be preserved, architecturally, spiritually and historically."
So, as Williams-Yarbrough began deciding on the interior and exterior of the building, she kept the historical factor in mind. The interior has modern lighting with new salon equipment and a soothing appeal, and the exterior looks crisp and clean.
"We tried to keep the heritage of the building, so we left the Coca Cola signs," she said. "I chose the color of the building because my favorite colors are black and green. They were my baby room colors, my bridal colors, and with the design I used a contrast on the poles with a lighter green."
The green signifies the color of money and the land, Williams-Yarbrough added.
And green is exactly what she began seeing. Once the salon opened on Sept. 28, 2006, she said she was busy from morning until well past dark.
"My slogan was, if you come to the door and shake my door knob, and if it’s unlocked, just come in," she said. "I live hair, I dream hair, I do everything but eat it. I had to be ready to take it and run with it."
Williams-Yarbrough has two sons, Isaiah, 3, and Corey, 15. Both of their fathers are barbers.
"This is my passion, but it’s the feeling I get after I satisfy all my clients," she said. "If you are in this business you need to fill the people with information and the beauty that they want or they won’t return to you."