Written and Photographed by Danny Holcomb
Behind a bright red door at 4 E. Grace Street in downtown Richmond lies a little bit of New York City.
Beyond Beauty Salon and Spa is the brainchild of former New Yorker Yonnette Poindexter. Yonnette came to the United States from Guyana with her parents in the late ‘70s when she was five years old. Her father was a mechanic and her mother was a nurse. They were part of an international exchange program at a time when demand for skilled nurses was at an all-time high.
As she grew up in Jamaica, Queens, Yonnette never imagined that one day she would own and operate her own salon, much less that she would live in the American South. “I wanted to be an actor,” she says, “[and] I always thought that I was a die-hard New Yorker.” For eight years, she worked as a stylist in other salons. Then she opened her own, Elegant Hairweaving, in Massapequa, Long Island. Elegant Hairweaving thrived and grew for seven years. But Yonnette also had a growing family with her husband Lonnie, a flooring specialist and her business partner. As the pair considered their children’s futures, they contemplated relocating.
Seven years ago, they came to Richmond for a relative’s wedding and decided they liked the slower pace. “Everything is a little more personal than impersonal,” she says. They liked the schools and opportunities for their five children, who were then ages 9 to 15. So the family moved to Chesterfield County.
The transition wasn’t easy for Yonnette. “It was rough starting over. I drove a bus for two years just to make ends meet,” she says. “The sacrifices you make for kids.” The greatest sacrifice for Yonnette may have been leaving behind her loyal following at her salon. “It’s hard breaking into a new scene, going from a place where everyone wants to sit in your chair, to a place where no one knows who [you are] or what you can do,” she says.
She spent the next four years working in the suburbs of Richmond at a variety of hair salons. Last year, after watching the kids grow up and prepare to leave the nest, she sensed it was time for another change. At a hair industry trade show in Charlotte, North Carolina, a trip she makes at least twice a year just to keep up with current trends, she felt the call of the city once more – even further south this time, in Charlotte. She says she was ready to relocate to open a salon.
Then on a whim, she followed up on an ad she saw in a local paper for a salon space in downtown Richmond. She says the photo “jumped out” at her. When she and Lonnie went to investigate, she knew she wanted it. “It reminded me of something in New York City,” she says.
In December of 2007, she opened the doors to Beyond Beauty. She says she’s staying put in downtown Richmond. St developed a loyal clientele, some of whom travel from as far as Washington D.C. and New Jersey just to “sit in her chair.” She enjoys the urban diversity of Richmond, and meeting “interesting people doing exciting things, like actors, artists, and doctors.” She says Richmond often reminds her of her roots coming up in Jamaica, Queens.