PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dean’s Beauty Salon & Barbershop is likely the oldest Black-owned business in Oregon.
Kim Brown is the third generation to run the family business. She grew up at Dean’s Beauty Salon in Northeast Portland, which was founded in 1954 by her grandparents Benjamin and Mary “Rose” Dean from Birmingham, Alabama.
Benjamin came to Oregon in the 1940s to work in the Kaiser shipyards, as did many Black families who settled in Portland. Rose started doing hair at home and Benjamin got his barber’s license.
Dean’s Beauty Salon & Barbershop was born.
“They wanted generational wealth in their family and that’s pretty much what they did,” said Kim.
With four generations of clients, Dean’s became a community space where African-Americans could get more than a haircut or a style. If you needed a babysitter, a plumber, a lively conversation, even a job, Dean’s was a good place to start.
“You can find almost anything in this shop,” said Kim.
Kim’s mother, Gloria “Ella” Dean, worked at the salon and eventually took it over.
“And then when I graduated from high school, my grandmother said ‘it’s time to go to beauty school’ and was like ‘and work down there with y’all? Oh no, I’ve been here my whole life, can I go live?’ So I lived away from Portland for about seven years and then I came back,” said Kim.
She never looked back, even during the pandemic-caused closures, slowdowns and restrictions. Owning the salon outright helps and Kim is confident Dean’s will still be around if and when she retires. She said her two sons and second-in-command Sylvia Riley will keep the salon and the family legacy going.
“We’re manifesters in this salon, so we manifest and create our own destiny,” Kim said. “So we’ll be here, we’re not going anywhere.”
Another business, separate from the salon, is also preserving the “Dean” family legacy. Kim’s niece, Nicole Rose, has started an organic Black hair care line named after Kim’s mom: “Ella Dean.” That makes Nicole the fourth generation of “Deans” involved in the Black hair care business.