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Neighborhoods - Finding the beauty in West End

Haircuts versus neighborhoods in the battle for community revitalization

Something's buzzing inside the BarberShop II at the Mall West End, and it ain't just hair clippers. The local 6 o'clock news drawls from three flat-screens hung high on the walls. A man with a broom and long-handled dustpan chases shaven clumps of hair as they carpet-bomb the linoleum. Folding chairs hold rows of men and a couple of mothers while their sons wait on the next available barber's chair out of 18 lined around the shop.

It's packed yet kind of quiet for a Friday, as if the steady grind of automatic trimmers has cast a meditative spell. "The weekend is always a time to relax," Dedrick Woods, who's owned BarberShop II for 13 years, says as he lines up a tapered fade while his customer, a regular, sits Buddha-still. "The first place you go is the barber shop. It's a black man's country club."

A hodgepodge of storefronts both tacky and timeless, revered soul food restaurants, historic cultural institutions, and flea markets (where fake Gucci sneaks can be bought for the low) crowd the sidewalks surrounding the 38-year-old shopping mall in southwest Atlanta. But one business reigns supreme. "This is the hair mecca of the South," says Woods, who estimates that almost 50 beauty and barbershops are located within a one-mile radius. Not to mention the wig shops, nail salons, and Asian-owned beauty supply stores, and headquarters of local hair giant Bronner Bros. a few miles away. Boasting names such as Georgiann's House of Styles, Wig City, Studio Favor & Faith, and Fade Away Cutz Barber Shop, the shops hook up styles ranging from African tree braids and natural two-strand twists to frohawks and Indian-imported hair weave.

It's part of the same culture and billion-dollar industry comedian Chris Rock exposed in his no-holds-barred 2009 doc Good Hair. And in West End, it's the lifeblood of a business district that might not exist otherwise. Where economic development has failed the neighborhood, personal style prevails along with those who cater to it. But is the proliferation of homegrown hair care in West End hiding the neighborhood's potential beauty?

That's a no-brainer, according to West End Neighborhood Development President Carl Nes and the rest of the board members, who tell a tale of two West Ends: one being a historically designated residential area with Victorian homes and stable homeowners versus a business district that draws mostly lower-income clientele from outside neighborhoods. The problem, says Nes, is that West End is a virtual "island" within the economically depressed 30310 ZIP code. When commercial developers pull demographics for the entire ZIP, West End takes a hit even though its average household income ranks higher than nearby Vine City or Capitol View.

They laugh about living in a neighborhood where nightlife is mostly limited to the divey, hole-in-the-wall strip club Queen City. But it's no joke to them. "I would just love to walk two blocks on Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and be able to hit different kinds of restaurants and boutiques," says W.E.N.D.'s Second Vice President Barbara Williams, who works at nearby Morehouse College but drives all the way to Howell Mill Road and beyond to find decent dining options outside of soul food.

Although they're hopeful that the creation of a commercial improvement district will help spur a wider range of options, barbers like Woods take pride in serving a clientele rarely catered to outside the 'hood. "'Cause you can't go and get one of these in Buckhead," he says, putting the finishing touches on his regular's temple taper. "Just because we don't have the things that Buckhead has, look at the business we do. Every day we're packed. It's because of the location, but even more it's because of the quality product we produce."



More By This Writer

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Article

Monday October 21, 2019 03:08 pm EDT
Explore these rap-related cultural landmarks in Atlanta | more...
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Thursday October 17, 2019 01:26 pm EDT
Explore locations for viewing comedy and get your laugh on! | more...
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People are already predicting the Atlanta Falcons will be Super Bowl winners. Those same people are also predicting the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks will win. TRAITORS.

Turns out the Atlanta attorney Claud "Tex" McIver who shot his wife several months back allegedly happened to owe her $350,000. So yeah, this plot is thicker than a pot of day-old grits right about now.

Speaking of reheated leftovers, they're still saying this Snowpocalypse 2017 could be a thing, Atlanta.

ICYMI: Chef Angus Brown died yesterday. The celebrated Atlantan was 35.

Be sure to check out Creative Loafing's People to Watch 2017 issue today."
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People are already predicting the [http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/gallery/atlanta-falcons-playoffs-super-bowl-li-matt-ryan-mvp-010317|Atlanta Falcons will be Super Bowl winners]. Those same people are also predicting the [http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/gallery/green-bay-packers-playoffs-super-bowl-aaron-rodgers-mvp-51-li-010417|Green Bay Packers] and the [http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/gallery/seattle-seahawks-playoff-super-bowl-houston-51-li-russell-wilson-schedule-stats-predictions-010417|Seattle Seahawks] will win. TRAITORS.

Turns out the Atlanta attorney [http://www.cbsnews.com/news/claud-tex-mciver-atlanta-attorney-who-says-he-accidentally-shot-wife-owed-her-350000/|Claud "Tex" McIver who shot his wife] several months back allegedly happened to owe her $350,000. So yeah, this plot is thicker than a pot of day-old grits right about now.

Speaking of reheated leftovers, they're still saying this [http://www.ajc.com/weather/winter-storm-watch-issued-ahead-snow/Awa4ESCWN3wTWHp9iGHuYK/|Snowpocalypse 2017] could be a thing, Atlanta.

ICYMI: [http://www.clatl.com/food-drink/article/20848122/chef-angus-brown-found-dead|Chef Angus Brown died yesterday]. The celebrated Atlantan was 35.

Be sure to check out ''Creative Loafing's ''[http://www.clatl.com/home/article/20847996/people-to-watch-2017|People to Watch 2017] issue today."
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ICYMI: Chef Angus Brown died yesterday. The celebrated Atlantan was 35.

Be sure to check out Creative Loafing's People to Watch 2017 issue today.             20848187         http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2017/01/Screen_shot_2017_01_05_at_9.41.55_AM.586e59b1a5cdc.png                  First Slice 1/5/16: Snowpocalypse Atlanta 2017 could be a thing... "
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Thursday January 5, 2017 02:44 pm EST
And the Atlanta Falcons could win the Super Bowl | more...
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Yet the 2016 campaign also validated why the Guild, a home and place for multicultural problem solvers to grow, exists. “If anything, the election has shown how much of that we need,” she says. “It’s frustrating, but it’s a driving force. Besides, what’s the alternative?”"
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  string(4391) "    One social entrepreneur scales her mission to fight inequity by creating extended families   2017-01-05T07:32:00+00:00 Nikishka Iyengar: The changemaker   Rodney Carmichael  2017-01-05T07:32:00+00:00  %{data-embed-type=%22image%22 data-embed-id=%22586d4e8c57ab46105020dcd2%22 data-embed-element=%22span%22 data-embed-size=%22640w%22 contenteditable=%22false%22}%On the night Donald J. Trump was elected president, Nikishka Iyengar sat in her East Atlanta living room surrounded by many of the friends and housemates who function as her second family in the U.S. It was like any other night at the Guild, the residential incubator she started last year for social entrepreneurs like herself. But as the dystopian reality of a Trump presidency rolled in with the election results, a dark cloud descended.“Honestly, it felt like a betrayal,” says Iyengar, an India native who moved to the U.S. from Singapore a decade ago to attend college. Since then she has invested her life’s work here, becoming a sought-after sustainability strategist responsible for helping major corporations around the world reap more than half a billion dollars by conserving energy, water, and waste. She’s focused on bringing similar sea change to her adopted home of Atlanta through increased cultural inclusivity and equity. The imperative to stay woke might have received a harsh wake-up call, but it’s only reinforced Iyengar’s commitment to expand the Guild’s social impact mission in 2017.“It’s not like the election results told us anything new — racism, xenophobia, misogyny, injustice, etc. — those have all existed,” she says. “We’ve known this, and those are precisely the issues we’ve been working on.”Iyengar had always felt the pull to dedicate her life to something bigger than herself, but it wasn’t until she moved to Singapore at age 14 that the socioeconomic and environmental disparities became clear. “When you grow up in a place like India, it’s easy to become numb to things like poverty and squalor, because it’s all around you, everywhere you look. It took leaving Mumbai to wake up,” she says. Her passion for combining business solutions with social impact work took her from micro-financing women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to consulting corporate clients on the value of pursuing a triple bottom line — not just financial, but social and environmental.Inspired by a diverse student co-op in which she resided while attending the University of Texas at Austin and hacker houses typical in Silicon Valley, Iyengar wanted the Guild to be part startup accelerator and part communal cooperative. That model could provide an affordable, holistic environment for the growth and development of social entrepreneurs. She found a home for sale in East Lake Commons, a co-housing community, and her vision began to materialize.For the Guild’s inaugural class last year, she selected three diverse resident applicants whose combined interests represent a range of local issues, including early stage female entrepreneurship (Ladypreneur League), sustainable housing (Tiny House Atlanta), and Atlanta’s creative economy (former CL People to Watch profilee Bem Joiner). She plans to open another Guild house in a different neighborhood this year to bring together natives, transplants, and entrepreneurs from the refugee community. Yet Iyengar’s own future also lies in the balance.Being a highly skilled foreign-born employee means her immigration status is secure, as long as Trump’s proposed reforms don’t include potential new limits on the federal visa program. And that’s the irony. Despite investing so much in this country — as a homeowner, taxpayer, environmental sustainability expert, and local change agent — Iyengar’s ability to positively impact America’s future hinges on the whims of a president elected via a wave of nationalistic fear-mongering.
               

Yet the 2016 campaign also validated why the Guild, a home and place for multicultural problem solvers to grow, exists. “If anything, the election has shown how much of that we need,” she says. “It’s frustrating, but it’s a driving force. Besides, what’s the alternative?”             20848128         http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2017/01/cover_Iyengar1_1_37.586d4e887b0d2.png                  Nikishka Iyengar: The changemaker "
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Thursday January 5, 2017 02:32 am EST
One social entrepreneur scales her mission to fight inequity by creating extended families | more...
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  string(29) "Tory Edwards: The storyteller"
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  string(3601) "%{data-embed-type=%22image%22 data-embed-id=%22586c298035ab46680fc7d455%22 data-embed-element=%22span%22 data-embed-size=%22640w%22 contenteditable=%22false%22}%A conversation with Tory Edwards is never small talk. This is the man, after all, who’s already hosted a quarter of Atlanta’s 2017 mayoral candidates for dinner. If the others know what’s good for them, they’ll soon be scrambling to get a seat at the table, too.In a town built on backroom deals, Edwards has turned dialogue about the city’s future into a delectable main course. His bimonthly Dinner With Friends is equal parts civic platform and content production — complete with lights, camera, and action. And Edwards, an independent hustler with the credentials to match, is the consummate host who’s gone from wanting to become a part of the conversation to creating it.A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, he recalls what it was like growing up there by counting off the number of deceased friends he lost along the way. Upon graduating high school, he had no plan for the future. But a move to Atlanta to live with an aunt opened up a whole new world. “I just knew that this was a black city and you could do whatever you wanted,” he says. “You could be whoever you wanted to be.”Not knowing who that was just yet, he followed his passion and soon excelled as a party promoter alongside friends like future nightlife impresario Alex Gidewon. When a serious car accident left Edwards with two broken legs, he decided to switch lanes. So he picked up a camera. Soon he was shooting such street classic Raw Report DVDs as Young Jeezy’s Trap or Die, Killer Mike’s early viral webisodes “Sunday Morning Massacre,” and the Travis Porter short film vehicle Proud to Be a Problem.With a TV and film production résumé that runs the gamut from BET’s successful drama “Being Mary Jane” to working on the Oscar-winning Selma, Edwards’ biggest achievements are still the ones he started from scratch with Mapmaker Studios, his production company. That’s how he created the idea that would come to be the stellar 2014 documentary ATL Rise: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise in the Rap Game, which aired on VH1.Edwards came up with the idea for Dinner With Friends, in part, after attending a fly dinner party with friends. “It wasn’t conventional at all,” he says. “Everybody just looked young and cool. It wasn’t stuffy. The chef was just bringing out dishes and we were just eating and talking. I thought, ‘Yo, this is dope. What if somebody put a camera here?’” It’s the unscripted talk that makes Dinner With Friendsa must-attend event. The list of former guests ranges from music industry vets (Killer Mike, Coach K, Chaka Zulu, DJ Drama, Kawan Prather, Shanti Das) to mayoral candidates (Michael Sterling, Kwanza Hall, Ceasar Mitchell) to community and diversity leaders (Nzinga Shaw, Rohit Malhotra, Judge Hatchett).But the best guest at the table is Edwards, who somehow possesses the ability to bridge the gaps between all these different worlds and people.“It comes from being authentic and just generally being interested in other people’s stories,” he says. “I can have a conversation with anybody because I’m just generally interested in other people.”
                

With the help of co-executive producers Keinon Johnson and Cannon Kent, and the services of celebrity chef Jason Ellis, he plans to scale DWF in 2017 with more interaction, more inclusion, and more properties in production. The rest of the mayoral field better get in where they fit in."
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With the help of co-executive producers Keinon Johnson and Cannon Kent, and the services of celebrity chef Jason Ellis, he plans to scale DWF in 2017 with more interaction, more inclusion, and more properties in production. The rest of the mayoral field better get in where they fit in."
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With the help of co-executive producers Keinon Johnson and Cannon Kent, and the services of celebrity chef Jason Ellis, he plans to scale DWF in 2017 with more interaction, more inclusion, and more properties in production. The rest of the mayoral field better get in where they fit in.             20848016         http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2017/01/cover_Edwards1_1_37.586c297c69fdd.png                  Tory Edwards: The storyteller "
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Article

Thursday January 5, 2017 02:27 am EST
An indie filmmaker has turned Atlanta's civic conversation into the hottest meal ticket in town | more...
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