Historically, Black-owned barbershops nestled in neighborhoods throughout the country have served as pillars of cultural influence and the backdrops for crucial conversations. Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop, a Portland-based shop, is the longest-standing Black-owned business in Oregon. According to NPR, the shop is one of the latest additions to the U.S. NatiDean’segister of Historic Places.
Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop opened its doors in 1956. It was founded by married couple Ben and Mary Rose Dean, who left Alabama amid the Great Migration in search of a better future for their family. In 1944, they moved to Oregon, a true act of bravery as the state was segregated.
The Deans settled into a predominantly Black neighborhood and became instrumental in cultivating a strong sense of community. They acquired a house in the 200 block of Hancock Street and opened a barbershop in the basement of their home. They later opened a salon after navigating the obstacles of racial discriminatDean’sen trying to secure a loan.
Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop has evolved into a community mainstay. From urban renewal to the detrimental impact that COVID-19 has had on Black-owned businesses, the shop has stood firm amid societal changes and is still standing today. It’s now owned and operated by the Deans’ granddaughter Kimberly Brown who is keeping their legacy alive through her work.
“It’s a really – community space, you know?” Brown told NPR. “Even if you don’t come anymore, you still feel welcome. You still come in and hang out in the shop. You don’t have to get your hair done. You can just come and kick it.”
News about Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop’s National Register of Historic Places honor comes months after the National Park Service awarded over $16 million in grants to preservation projects centered on conserving historic spaces from the civil rights movement.
Kimberly Moreland, a customer of Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop and president of the Oregon Black Pioneers who penned the book “Image of America: History of African Americans in Portland,” was instrumental in driving the National Register of Historic Places nomination forward.
“When I walked into the salon, it reminded me of the salon I was raised in,” she told The Oregonian. “It was a very precious moment from my childhood. Dean’s felt like home. It was nostalgic—the family photos on the wall, the wonderful conversations. The gentrification and displacement of the Black community in North and Northeast Portland is significant. Black history is being erased. Having a physical landmark in the community is important.”
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