AMHERST — Citing a trend of more women of color opting to keep their hair natural, the owner of a new downtown Amherst shop says she hopes her store will help them find the shampoos, conditioners and stylers they want.
Head Games Beauty Supply, which opened at 67 North Pleasant St. this summer, offers dozens of products, many from independent retailers, that meet the natural styles for women, as well as for men and children.
“Basically this is a beauty supply store for people who are wearing their hair naturally,” said Erica Wilson Perkins. “This is coming from a need of mine.”
Formerly an instructor of jazz dance and choreography at the University of Massachusetts, Wilson Perkins, 44, who lives in Shutesbury, opened the store July 17 in space that formerly housed a church office. It is a small shop, what Wilson Perkins called “boutique-like,” but it is jam-packed with products. She said customers have been coming in “very excited” about the array of products offered.
Among her first customers was local hair stylist Nataly Gomez of Belchertown, who works at the salon in J.C. Penney’s at the Hampshire Mall in Hadley.
Gomez, 29, a hairstylist for two years, specializes in working on what she terms “ethnic hair.”
She said she works with many white mothers of mixed-race children who are flummoxed by their children’s hair needs.
“They really don’t know how to handle the hair,” said Gomez.
She said Wilson Perkins’ shop is a welcome addition to the landscape.
“With Amherst and the surrounding area, there are very little ethnic shops for your hair,” said Gomez. “Unfortunately, we are forced to go to Holyoke and Springfield.”
She said she spotted the shop while in Amherst and waited to check it out when it opened for business.
“I went in and saw the layout and I was really excited because we don’t have anything like that,” she said. She had a talk with Wilson Perkins, she said, about the importance of a shop with such a focus.
“I told her I think you’re going to need to expand,” said Gomez.
Meanwhile, Wilson Perkins said she changed careers to open the shop because she has a passion for helping people look their best.
“What I am is a black woman who loves hair and wants to provide people more information about natural hair,” Wilson Perkins said.
The idea for creating the store, she said, came from her own desire to wear her hair naturally, rather than altering its texture with straighteners, many of which require the use of chemicals.
Natural products can be used by people with any hair type, from curls to kinky, waves to Afros, and from dreadlocks to braids to straight. She intends to give advice so customers can make the transition to natural hair.
“When folks come in, I’m tending to them to find the best products for them specifically,” she said. Wilson Perkins is the shop owner and sole employee.
While many national chain stores like Target and Wal-Mart offer some products that fit this category, they typically have a more limited selection. Wilson Perkins said her store will have more than 100 different beauty products in one place.
Many of the products use natural and organic ingredients and come from independent vendors, including Alikay Naturals, Dark and Lovely Au Naturale, Mizani, Darcy’s Botanicals, Tailah Waajid and Knotty Boy.
“I took time to personally research and to find the best products in a range of prices,” Wilson Perkins said.
There are also natural texturizers to release curls, shea butter to condition hair, shampoo bars for washing dreadlocks and braids and natural henna hair dye.
The store also offers styling tools and accessories, including curling irons, hot combs and press combs, and rollers.
An assortment of hair braids hang off one shelf. Eventually, the store will stock hair weaves that are made from real human hair.
Wilson Perkins said she hopes Head Games is meeting a need, especially among ethnic groups in the community. She expects many of her customers will be African-American women because the products she is selling are geared toward improving the texture and style of their natural hair, But she said people of all ethnic backgrounds may find useful products in the store.
She said she anticipates many college students will take advantage of her shop when they return for the fall semester. “I would like to express how excited I am to relate to students in this new capacity,” Wilson Perkins said.
She said the store will host a series of events, talks and demonstrations with a focus on natural beauty, hair and living.
A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the store, sponsored by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, will be held Tuesday from 1:30 to 2 p.m., featuring light refreshments, music by the Bamidele Drummers and free samples and store specials.
Located next to Starbucks on the second floor of 67 North Pleasant St., Head Games can be reached from the North Pleasant sidewalk and from a walkway near the Boltwood parking garage,
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org