During her 53 years, Joy Silverstein, who grew up in Moss Hill, has seen a lot of changes in Jamaica Plain. For the past 25 years, as owner of the popular salon Fresh Hair at 62 South St., she’s watched her hometown grow.
Inside the shop, photographs line the walls, chronicling Fresh Hair’s growth from a two-chair salon to a full-service personal grooming business offering skin and nail care, cosmetics, jewelry, a spray tanning booth that’s safe on skin and ear piercing. There’s even a tattoo artist available by appointment. And as part of the silver anniversary the salon is giving customers 25 percent off all retail sales in July.
“JP has really changed a lot since I was a kid. Back then it was kind of run down and sleepier,” said Silverstein as she reminisced about businesses, most of which are only memories to long-time residents like herself.
“Today the buildings are fixed up, and the business district is pretty healthy. I’m sad some artists, working class people and elderly have been pushed out because of gentrification, but JP is cleaner and safer, and it still has a diverse, independent spirit that’s very accepting,” she said.
“JP has become a destination to shop and live, and that’s brought in many new, younger people. When I walk to the bank during the day I seem to know everyone. But when I go to J.P. Licks in the evening there’s a whole group of people I don’t know.”
Silverstein credited part of her success with “doing what I love in my own neighborhood. It’s like a hobby,” said Silverstein, who has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Williams College. “I think one reason I didn’t pursue a career as a therapist is that I realized [as a stylist] I can do what I love—talking to people—but I don’t have to fix their problems.”
Another reason for her success is her strong commitment to the neighborhood. Silverstein served for two years as the president of the Jamaica Plain Business and Professional Association, six years as a board member of the Eliot School, participates in First Thursday, has been active in Centre/South Main Streets’ efforts to fix up the mall area on the upper part of South Street and donates about 100 gift certificates a year to local fund-raisers and groups.
“It’s more than just good public relations,” she said. “It’s also about getting to know people and making the community a more progressive place to live.”
Silverstein’s progressive attitude includes a global view with a commitment to the environment. She sells hair and skin products with natural ingredients, recycles her trash, filters the water and installed solar panels for hot water at both the salon and her house in JP.
“There’s a great atmosphere in the shop,” said Marilyn Morrissey, a registered nurse who been going to Fresh Hair since it opened. “I love the music and artwork by local artists. And Joy’s such a great person. She’s always supported activities my kids where in at Latin School by buying ads in programs, and I know she supports other things in the community.
“It’s a sign of success that they’ve been here 25 years. Joy is role model for us all,” Morrissey said.
Relative newcomer Megan Sonderegger from Dorchester said she began going to the salon four years ago “when a friend in JP swore by the place. I like the feel in here. It’s not too highfaluting. You see older ladies in rollers and younger hipsters with pink stripes in their hair.”
Silverstein’s philosophy of being “respectful, honest and fair” has held her in good stead with both customers and employees, including long tenured stylists Richard Repetta, 16 years, and Madaline Santana, 15 years.
“Joy is a joy to work with,” said Santana, whose teenage son, Josh Pizarro, also works at the shop. “And it’s a good group of people to work with. We all seem to have fun.”
Silverstein and her then business partner Marie Doucette founded Fresh Hair in 1982 when the pair left toney Newbury Street. The salon expanded in 1886, taking over an adjacent storefront following a fire that destroyed a small grocery next door.
The business continued to grow, adding a gift center in 1996. “When my partner moved home to Florida I had to decide what to do,” Silverstein said. “People suggested I franchise the business, but I decided I’d rather go deep than go wide.”
She renovated the façade of the building in 1999, expanded the interior in 2004 and added a pedicure chaise in 2005.
Silverstein said her plans are to continue growing the business for the next 10 years, then sell it and retire.
“There are a lot of things I’d like to do. I want to live on an organic farm for a year a see the whole cycle for life, from seed to harvest. Then I’d like to go sail a lot, perhaps around the world. I’d also like to live in foreign countries for a while.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to do all that, but those are my dreams,” she said. And why not? She’s already had a dream that’s come true.
Fresh Hair is open Mondays, noon to 8 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 524-6867 or visit www.freshhair.com.