Phyllis Martin, the longtime owner of Hair Play Salon on Ashley Road, expanded her business and opened a beauty supply store inside her salon earlier this month.
Hair runs in Martin’s family, and she knew since age 13 that she would make the family passion her career, she said. After cosmetology school at House of Heavilin Beauty College in Kansas City, she cut hair for a while in Columbia before getting the opportunity to open her own salon in Boonville. She’s the first in her family to open a beauty supply store. Her mother and three aunts each own their own beauty salons, and her brother has a barber shop, she said.
“As a little girl, I can remember going and sorting out the rollers, folding the towels, sweeping the floors at an early age,” she said. “My classmates and friends in the neighborhood would come to me to get their hair done for school pictures.”
She wants to show her nieces that they can run a business, too. Martin has operated Hair Play Salon at 405 E. Ashley Road for seven years after moving from Main Street, she said. Antonio McDonald, who introduced Martin to Boonville, owns the store, while Martin manages it and owns the salon. She has the only black hair salon in Boonville, and one of just a few black-owned beauty supply stores in Missouri, she said.
Black beauty supply can be a difficult business to break into, Martin said.
Friendly policies between the U.S. and Korea allowed foreign merchants to take control of the U.S. wig market in the 1960s, according to Madame Noire. Those wig companies expanded into beauty supply stores, many focused on African American hair and beauty products. The Korean distributors closely guard their products, making it difficult to get into the supply chain and keeping black entrepreneurs from selling black beauty supplies.
“It’s a big thing that I’m able to do my art, and then also supply the hair,” Martin said. “Whether you’re living in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, this is a hard industry to get into.”
The salon is still open, and Martin is doing all the same services she did before, she said. She can cut all kinds of hair, she said. She considers herself a hair doctor, specializing in keeping hair healthy
The store has shampoo and conditioner for natural hair, as well as hair oils and accessories, but Martin mainly wants to sell hair. The wall of the shop is lined with all kinds and colors of hair, and she can order more products if they’re not on the wall, she said.
She plans to sell to individuals and salons, drawing in people who don’t want to make a trip to Columbia, St. Louis or Kansas City, she said. Having the store would also make her a one-stop shop for hair products and styling.
“There’s a lot of biracial children here, and I’d be cutting the mother’s hair and she might say, ‘My son has hair like his father’s, what do I use?’ And I always have to tell them to go to Walmart, look for this, but now they can just come here,” she said.
Martin said she has customers coming from Fayette, Glasgow, even as far as her home town of Kansas City.
“Boonville is a nice place to be,” she said. “Nice, family-oriented people, close-knit community.”