During the months of Hopscotch CD event planning this spring, I never met neighbor Danyale from Good Hair Salon in person. We spoke occasionally via email, and I was drawn to how encouraging, helpful, and open she was. She is a great neighbor. At one point she called me “the Hopscotch Queen,” a title that made me feel so good that I immediately began applying it to all event organizers. Men and women, young and old, black and white, gay and straight: we became The Hopscotch Queens thanks to Danyale.
One day I delivered several Hopscotch CD t-shirts to the salon. I was disappointed to learn that Danyale was out of town that day, but I was struck by the friendly, welcoming, and relaxed energy of the space. As I walked out, I realized that I didn’t really want to leave. I decided in that moment that I would ask Danyale to tell me about her space for the Different Office website. Because if a stranger can feel the good energy of a work space in a 1-minute visit, the odds are pretty high that the person running the space considers it soul satisfying.
So on a warm Friday afternoon in August, Daniel and I walked to Good Hair Salon, excited to finally meet Danyale and thrilled about our first interview for this website in our own neighborhood.
How did you end up doing this work?
Danyale: My parents were in the hair industry. My mother was a cosmetologist and my dad was a barber. They both owned a co-salon space in Sacramento. So I was a salon kid. I grew up in the barber shop or the salon. For a short period of time they lost their space to the city. The city decided to take ownership of the property that my grandfather owned: use it for city purposes. They ended up putting a fire station there.
I don’t know if you know how that works, but they’re able to offer you whatever they say your property is worth. So my mom started working out of the top half of our house at the time. And my father got a barbershop space somewhere else. And that was the livelihood of my family throughout my years growing up.
When we moved from California to Seattle, my mom started teaching cosmetology at Seattle Central, now Seattle Vocational Institute. And when I was 18 I went through the program, because I didn’t know what to do coming out of high school. And at that time, Garfield had a program where you could go to community college if you were a senior, for half your day, and you would get college credit.
Danyale: It was really nice. So by the time I graduated I was half way through the program.
Lori: So you went to Garfield!
Danyale: I went to Garfield! I’m right from in this area.
Lori: That’s awesome.
Danyale: Mmm, hmm. I stayed close to home.
How did this space end up becoming your work space?
Danyale: The funny story is that I was working. I moved to California. I moved back to Seattle. One of the things that happened is I specialized in — my services for hair care — I changed from doing all types of hair and services to really becoming specific on curly hair and natural hair styling. I wasn’t doing straight hair anymore. And I brought that back with me when I moved back to Seattle.
Even though the rest of the market — other people I was in contact with — were like, “You can’t do that here. That market’s not here. I don’t know how you’re going to survive.” What I did was I went back and forth from California to Seattle for about a year. So about every three weeks I’d do a turnaround trip to support my cost of living. I’d fly to California and do all the clients that I’d already had set up there and then I’d come back here and start trying to rebuild clients here.
Danyale: And that lasted for a full year. Then what I did, I contracted in a salon while I was building up my clientele. When I decided I wanted a space, I started looking around. I wanted to stay in the Central Area. Are you familiar with this space at all? There was a Tai-Chi Qigong herbal medicine place that was in here originally. And I just remember that he’d kind of set up right after the space was built, but whenever I passed by I didn’t really see anyone in here. So one day I came in and asked him how he was doing business-wise, and about the space, and he said that he was needing to leave. He was looking for somebody to either take over the lease or sublet and that turned out to be me.
Lori: Nice. How long ago was that?
Danyale: That was 7 years now.
Lori: Wow. Seven years. We’ve been in the neighborhood since 2002. I lived in West Seattle before that and Daniel lived on Beacon Hill, so, I’d remembered that it wasn’t a hair salon when we moved in, but I didn’t remember how long it had been.
What are some of your favorite memories from the space over the last 7 years?
Danyale: You see these windows and the way they face the park?
Lori: Mmm, hmm.
Danyale: I think most of our memories come from what we call “watching TV.” Because that’s what we do. We have this great shot of everything going on in the park. In the summers, one of the best visuals is all the kids in the park playing in the water. There are a lot of community events that go on over there. So I think it’s the experience of what goes on in the neighborhood and being able to experience it within the space that’s some of my favorite memories.
Lori: Yeah. Pratt’s a great park.
Danyale: Yeah. It really is. Also, events that we’ve had here where people were able to gather, I think, early in opening the space. It was new to have a natural hair salon that specializes in curly hair textures. And that was exclusive. And then welcoming community in and having them be really happy and excited about the business being here, because it was so unique. And it was — even though stylists had told me that it wasn’t needed and wanted — I think it was just that it wasn’t here. People didn’t really realize that they needed and wanted it.
Lori: Yeah. This is such. In my mind, this is the most amazing area in the whole city.
Danyale: Mmm, hmm.
Lori: There are people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and countries, living in this area. We saw that with Hopscotch CD, people kept sending us photos, videos, of people hoping, laughing. You could tell. In the videos, people not speaking English, trying to explain hopscotch and how it worked, the different rules, where they were from. Moms and kids. Dads and kids.
Danyale: Uh, huh.
Lori: It was just, ah, awesome. So you have one of the best views in the city, I think.
Danyale: I do. I think so too.
Lori: I lived in West Seattle for a while, in a house that had a little, sort of, peekaboo view of the water. And people are always like “Oh, how did you give up the water view?” I’ve always thought that I’d much rather look at cool, happy neighbors [laughs] and people. Not that I wouldn’t.
Danyale: Like some water view too, to go along with it.
Lori: Like some water view too, yeah. But I’m happy with my trade.
How about the neighborhood and community you’re part of? What are some of your favorite things about here?
Danyale: I think what’s been really helpful in moving me along in business is the acceptance of the community. People coming in, feeling comfortable, it becomes kind of a congregation spot. A lot of people know each other in the community. “Oh, I saw you!” They get to see each other when they come in here. And that’s a great connective experience, not only for me, but for other people. I think my greatest joy is just to see other people enjoying the space, enjoying the environment.
I think the thing that makes it one of the richest places is my staff. My staff are really great. They’re easygoing. One of the comments that I get from clients is “Everybody seems happy. Everyone seemed relaxed. You guys seemed like you were havin’ a good time.” That type of energy really creates a good space.
Lori: Yeah. Well I noticed it when I came in to drop of those Hopscotch CD t-shirts. [Danyale laughs] I had never been here. Nobody knew me. Yet, there was just this great, sort of, happy, relaxed, um, vibe.
Danyale: Mmm, hmm.
Lori: And I was like “Oh! I want to stay here. [laughs] I don’t know what I would do here but just want to go hang out.”
Danyale: And that happens. People come and they hang out. We have clients who travel from as far as Olympia on a regular basis, and Vancouver. So, you know, they come from far. So it’s good to know that they enjoy their experience when they do get here. And they don’t mind having to hang out for a while to have whatever done.
How many people work here?
Danyale: Right now I have a full staff of seven. One thing I have tapped in, community-wise, recently is that we service a community of adoptive and foster families who have adopted African American children, and who themselves are white. And trying to manage hair care. We’ve become that place for them. So one of the parts, that’s one of the things that I’ve done on my blog on the Good Hair Salon web page is given them a voice. So we have this new section where I have parents from those families just talking about their experience and trying to bring that to the community.
Lori: We actually have neighbors across the street—the sweetest, quietest couple—they just adopted a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old brother and sister from Kenya. They’ve already met their extended family and are going back to get the kids in late August. So that’s a really good thing to know. I’ll point them in your direction.
Danyale: Yeah, that’d be great.
Lori: You were talking about this space as a gathering space. I’ve been thinking about that a lot the last couple of years because so many people, sort of our age [Lori and husband Daniel are 43], and younger, aren’t necessarily always using church as their community gathering place to the extent that people used to. And it seems like there’s a real, sort of, hole. Because we still need to gather. We still need community.
Danyale: We still want to be in touch with each other: other than social media.
Danyale: And where are we really able to do that anymore?
Lori: Yeah, and see each other. That’s why I started running a coworking space out of our house.
Danyale: Oh, ok.
Lori: I was working by myself and it gets pretty lonely, so now other people come on Wednesdays and we work together. Other people who work for themselves, or by themselves.
New question. I told you that my creative partner, Bas, and I have been working now together since 2011. We’ve been talking about that fact that it sort of feels like, well, the more we interview people who love their work spaces, we feel like we’re sort of part of an emerging culture. And we don’t quite have a name for it, but like, people who are sort of stepping away from what they thought they should do and are really embracing what they love. And so we talk a lot about “So what culture are we part of then? What’s this called?”
Do you consider Good Hair Salon part of a culture, or cultures, or an emerging culture? And if so, what do you call that culture?
Danyale: Hmm. I think it’s already pretty much been defined for me as far as the Natural Hair culture. There’s been a huge trend, people embracing curly hair textures overall, for the African American culture. So I think that we fit really succinctly into that. But also, I don’t know. I fluctuate on the space itself. I think it’s more of the energy and the environment of the people who gather here. This particular space. It’s the community we sit in. It’s the people in the park. It’s a lot of just people who drive and walk by on a regular basis and pop in to say whatever.
Lori: Yeah. The Central Area has its own culture.
Danyale: It does. I think I fluctuate with the space just because I’ve been in negotiation with my landlord. Tien and I, we have this conversation, where we love being here. We love being in this area. But we’ve had such a struggle with getting things settled with our landlord, so it gives us a lot of anxiety about the space itself.
Lori: Yeah, it’s interesting. When we wrote our first book, we were gathering stories from people who had moved from “I Should” to “I Love My Work.” That was the whole focus. We gathered 15 stories, and one of the things that came out of that process, was that we figured out that people who love what they do tend to sort of create these amazing spaces around them. So that’s what Different Office is about: self-created, soul-satisfying work spaces. But not everybody defines “space” as the walls and the building, right?
Danyale: Yeah. Mmm, hmm.
Lori: The last interview we did was with Susan and Jacob of Office Nomads, a coworking space over on Boylston and Pine, and they said “The people are the space.”
Danyale: Mmm, hmm. Right.
Lori: “…We could be anywhere. We love where we are, we don’t want to move. But the people are the space.” So that was another interesting thing to hear: another definition of soul-satisfying work space as the people who are around.
Danyale: Yeah, I think a lot of what we’ve mostly created here is an environment within the space, an environment of acceptance, of love, of family, definitely. And just embracing everyone who walks through the door is really our goal.
Lori: Based on your experience here
what suggestions would you give to somebody considering leaving a job they hate, creating their own work space, or evolving their work space into something more soul-satisfying?
Danyale: I think listening to yourself. Listening to what’s really innately important to you personally. And following that. That has a lot to do with how I got to where I am now. I broke away from tradition, from what I’d been taught in school, and where I started in the industry. And really only wanted to do services for people that I would want done for myself. And focused on that and then moved in that direction.
And kind of quieting the nay-sayers. Sometimes you have to go out on faith. It’s necessary to pull you forward to where you really want to be.
Lori: Yay! [We laugh together.] One last question.
When you hear “soul-satisfying work space,” who do you think of?
Danyale: I’ve always said that if I didn’t do this work, which I love—and I transitioned recently from being behind the chair and managing the salon to just managing the salon—and so I’m finding new space for myself in that. But I’ve always said that if I didn’t do hair, and wasn’t running the salon, that I’d be a writer, because you can do it anywhere. And so the space that you create is going to be wherever you are, whatever you love doing, and still being able to create your work. So you’re a writer, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But in my fantasy, that’s what it is.
Lori: It is true! The actually making a living at it is the part I’m still working on. But it’s true that I can do it from anywhere.
Danyale: See in my dream you make a bunch of money at it and you’re able to go live wherever you want, do whatever you want, whenever you want. Just turn in your pages.
Lori: [belly laughing] Well, that’s the plan. But I’m being stubborn. I only want to work for myself, so I knew it was going to be a long haul.
Danyale: I also recommend the sisters at Kingfish Café. Have you been there?
Daniel (photographer who was quietly listening until this point): Let’s go get some of their peel-and-eat shrimp right now! [We all laugh.]
Lori: I can’t believe I didn’t think of them. That’s got to be a soul-satisfying work space. We love their food. I love the whole feeling of that space.
I guess I do have one more question that isn’t on my sheet.
You’ve been doing this here for 7 years — and you started talking about having new space for yourself — what are you working on and thinking about today that you weren’t before?
Danyale: I’m thinking about creating a product line. I’m thinking about another location. I’m thinking about how to better serve my staff and give them more support in their lives, for the way that they support the business and help it thrive the way it does. So, now that I’m out from behind the chair, it’s definitely enabled me to expand my ideas around the business itself. See new possibilities.
What photos would you like to see of your space to accompany the story?
Danyale: [laughs] We’ve been in here 7 years, and we’ve thoroughly lived out the space. We’ve outgrown it, knocked out walls, and moved stuff around. I’ve added stuff. I’ve taken it back away. So it needs an overhaul. It needs to be redone, and I’m at that precipice where I can’t do anything until the landlord signs off on a contract, before I put more money into the space. So some of my favorite areas are no longer here.
There are certain things that I do like. The back wall: I love the Good Hair Salon poster back there.
I’m still in love with the retail area, I think it speaks to a lot of people. Also jewelry and accessories are a big part of our business. We get clients that pop in just for jewelry buys.
But I really believe that people make the space. So my staff is all here today, you can definitely take photos of them. If you’re getting clients in the shot, ask them if it’s ok. But I think the more you capture the people, the more you’re going to capture the energy of what really goes on here.
Lori: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Danyale: You’re welcome.