SELMA – If you step inside any beauty salon, you’ll likely see similar activities going on – women getting their hair cut and styled, their nails manicured and painted or even having a facial or permanent make-up applied.
What’s different at Selma’s Hair & All That Jazz is that there’s three generations of family members working together. When you add theirs, and their staff’s work history, there’s likely two centuries of experience in that one shop.
When you first step in to their shop at 2027 2nd St. in Downtown Selma, you’ll be greeted by Lupe Villa-Gomez.
“Lupe is amazing,” said Connie Lujan, the granddaughter at the shop. “She’s Virgie’s mom and she sits up front and answers phones, washes towels, prepares coffee and brings in home-made burritos.”
Virgie is Virginia Perez who, along with Cecilia Gallegos, have worked as hairdressers at the salon for more than three decades.
In another section is the matriarch of all the rest of the women at the shop, Grandma Connie, who Connie Lujan is named after. Connie Alvarado, is 85 and has been doing nails for 44 years now. She has a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks.
“This is her room where she does her manicures and pedicures,” Lujan said giving a tour. There are pictures of grandchildren, family pets and long-time clients on the wall. And one special frame holds a picture of her husband, Frank.
“All in all, he was a good daddy and the best supporter,” Grandma Connie said. “He loved his daughters and it’s his daughters that keep him where he’s at,” she said of their home-care arrangements and pitching in so he can stay at home. Since he’s suffering from dementia, Connie Alvarado said she has to remind him that he is at home and that she is his wife. Otherwise, why would all those pictures of their daughters be on the wall, she asks him?
“Those are pictures he had made. I ask if he thinks somebody else would have pictures of our kids. I have to go through this every night. It’s very hard. I feel good when he knows I’m his wife.”
Grandma Connie only works a few days a week, but she prefers keeping company with the other women. It’s her youngest daughter, Penny Salinas, 56, that runs the shop. She’s an electrologist, manicurist and an esthetician and performs facials, waxing or even permanent make-up, on top of manicures and hair removal.
Also in the family is the elder sister, Martie Alvarado who turns 70 in April. She’s one of the hairdressers who also does waxing.
Phyllis English 67, is a homemaker and has done some office work. She’s the only sister who did not go into the beauty industry.
Frances Quintana, 66, is also a hairstylist that does haircuts, colors and weaves. Her daughter is Connie Lujan, 42, who applies eyelash extensions to clients.
Salinas said she didn’t start out running Hair & All That Jazz but that the eldest sister actually opened it up after her boss moved away. Martie started off by renting a small place with only two or three chairs. They expanded, moving to a larger location with 13 chairs and their mother used a portion of the building to run an upscale clothing boutique. The shop closed after Martie Alvarado married and moved to Long Beach.
“By then, my mom was going to be a manicurist and she started working in Fresno and for another shop in town and Frances worked there too,” Salinas recalls. “After a few years, Martie came back and opened another beauty salon in another part of town. It was called Martie and Company and she was there 10 years.”
Salinas worked with plastic surgeons in Fresno and after she married decided to just do electrolysis.
“I had had it done at a very young age and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to go into the business and do the beauty thing. My husband said, ‘go to school.’ I was married two years then went to school and then rented a room from my sister to do the electrolysis.”
Ten more years later and with more staff members, they moved again considering their current location and another across the street.
But then, Martie Alvarado remarried and got set to move to Oakhurst.
“My owning this salon was not my idea but she told my dad, and all of us, she was moving and one of us would have to take it over, or sell it.”
Since so many family members were relying on that shop, Salinas decided to take over.
“I felt like I’m the youngest, and we have people working for us already, so I need to do this. So that’s where I came in to do the salon. That’s how that happened.”
Eventually, even Martie Alvarado returned and still rents a booth at the salon.
“Everybody that works here, even the two girls in front, they’ve been with me 30 years,” Salinas said. “Virginia Perez and Cecilia Gallegos are absolutely like family. Our kids have grown up together. We’ve seen them before they had children and after. It’s been a whole whirlwind process.”
And while there’s been other staff, Salinas said they have a standard of professionalism that is sometimes missing in the next generation of beauticians.
Connie Lujan said she was specifically told at the beginning that’s not how they run their salon.
“My aunt and my grandma sat me down and said, ‘we don’t talk about other salons. You don’t badmouth them. We’re just not like that.’ I was schooled that this is just something we just don’t do.”
Salinas said instead, they have support beyond the traditional co-worker relationship.
“We all have each other’s back,” Salinas said. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but we don’t feel that way in this salon. I still run my salon the way it’s always been run – very fairly,” she said. “They’ve been here through thick and thin and it’s like a big family. They’ve got my back 100 percent. We go through our ups and downs together, but I have a very professional team here. If you add up all our years of experience, it’s probably closer to 200 years.”
On Oct. 31, 2018, they celebrated 30 years at their current location.
Grandmother Connie Alvarado said she’s glad to see the work ethic she and her husband instilled in their daughters paying off now. And while she enjoyed being a homemaker when they were young, she didn’t want them to think being take care of was the way to go.
“I was a stay-at-home mommy but I always kept up with the times and kept my girls’ hair nice. That was the happiest time of my life.”
Her step-mother set the example for her there, she said.
“My stepmother was my mom and she was always real tidy. She was short and chubby, but she was a neat five foot tall and five feet wide. She’d put her make-up on and her hair was neat. She’d go to the beauty salon and she’d take me. I grew up doing things like that. I’d take care of the house and mom did the cooking so when I had time, I’d sit and do my nails and comb my hair.”
When it was time for her own daughters to graduate and decide what to do with their lives, Grandma Connie made it clear being a slacker was not an option.
“They all work because it was the way they were raised. I was hard on them. I took them to pick grapes and I didn’t have to because my husband Frank made good money. But I said, in this house, they’re going to get a diploma. If they go to college, that’s a plus but they’re going to have one foot in a business. I told them, they don’t want to be like me because I got lucky. My husband had a good education and a good job, but I want them to get a diploma, even if I had to go sit next to them in class. That would be very embarrassing, so all of them graduated.”
Now, she considers herself blessed to have her daughter running the salon.
“I hope I can keep working for another year at least. I work three days and it’s not all day. I’m lucky my daughter is the boss. Without this, I’d go nuts. It’s a lot of stress at home. My husband was so good, but now he doesn’t talk as much.”
Lujan said they provide a stress outlet for their customers as well, since a trip to the beauty shop is usually one way customers treat themselves.
“It’s a little escape from home and their lives so we make them feel pampered,” Lujan said. “They talk about their week and we become friends. We all have clients that have come for years. You see them and they see your life and everything you’re going through. It’s a relationship. It’s nice to let them vent to you.”
Other families have opened restaurants, daycares and car repair shops in town. We asked the woman what it is about the beauty industry that appealed to them.
“We just enjoy it,” Salinas said. “What I love about it is it’s energizing. It makes you feel good inside especially when you have people that come in and maybe they’ve lost someone, or they’re going through something and they’re down. You can boost them up and that’s gratifying.”
Lujan added she likes how clients feel after they see themselves with their eyelash extensions.
“I love my job of making girls look and feel pretty. I look forward to that with every single client.”
But it’s having the support of her aunts, mother and co-workers that are like extended family that make all the difference.
“There’s nothing like coming to work with a boss and co-workers who want nothing but the best for you. They all take good care of me and look out for each other. We’re all family. They want to see you happy and see you thrive.”