Tamara “T” Brown recently moved her Fringe Salon spa from South Park Street to 624 S. Gammon Road. “Business was good [on Park Street], but the rent started to get higher than I needed it to be,” said Brown, who opened her original space on Feb. 12, 2010. “I loved being part of the gateway to Madison. I started there because … it was the most diverse area in Madison,” she said. “But it wasn’t proving to be where I should stay.”
“The city has expanded so much that this [Gammon Road] is starting to feel central,“ Brown said with a smile. And, she said, the diversity has increased all over Madison as well. “The west side has gotten more diverse, so I can still be in my niche.” And as far as business goes, Brown said, “We’ve not slowed down. In fact, we’ve gotten busier here.”
The spacious new surroundings for Brown, her staff, and their clients were occupied for many years by Leo’s Salon. Since the space had always been a salon, the transition was easier. “It took one week of dedication and determination,” she said, noting that her husband, Curtis, has been “150 percent supportive with the business since the beginning.”
“All of my team followed me here,” Brown said. Her team includes Keena and Zach, both licensed hair stylists; Jovita, a braider; Isis, a braider and hair extension specialist; and Brown’s daughter Hayle, a Memorial High School student who works part-time as a receptionist. Fringe even offers acupuncture treatments from Dr. Wang in its spa room.
Everything that Fringe offered on Park Street is available at the new place. Fringe is full-service, offering care for nails, hair, and skin. Brown specifically mentioned sew-ins, fusions, extensions, haircuts, hair coloring, dreadlocks (both starting and maintaining), and Brazilian blowouts. They carry Moroccanoil, Brazilian Blowout, and OPI for their manicures and pedicures. Local artist Wanda Tapp displays and sells her calligraphy, greeting cards, and jewelry under her label Tappestry Design.
Brown has been pleased with her clients’ comments on the new place: They appreciate the better parking and say the space is brighter, more open, and more relaxing. “Having the move be so overwhelmingly positive has just been amazing,” she says.
“I would say we are one of the most diverse salons in Madison,” Brown says. “Because of that we get a lot of trans-racial adoptive families, and because of our knowledge of servicing all types of hair well. The Dane County adoption agency called to get our relocation information right. They said we came highly recommended. That aspect of our service has just grown.”
Brown is excited about community projects Fringe has been able to support. She mentions ongoing support for Lilada’s Living Room, a nonprofit home for teen moms. A recent project was a Black Hair Forum sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Black Student Union. They were told to expect about 20 students, but almost 50 showed up “because of their need for proper treatment of their hair while they’re here in school,” Brown said. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests for such presentations.”
Meriter Hospital also has Fringe service long-term patients. “We’ve been doing that since we opened in 2010,” Brown says. “We go about once a month. The patients are so excited that we come. I’m excited, too, and would like to do more of that.”
She drew a parallel between the work of physicians and that of cosmetologists: both are close to the patients and are caring for them under sanitary conditions. Historically, she said, cosmetologists began by working alongside physicians. “I’d like to see that return, in terms of really caring for our clients,” she says.
“We’re one of the few industries where we are still allowed to touch people, and touch is so important. It feeds the soul. I take my call and my life very seriously: to provide the best care. It’s wonderful to have that passion, because people receive it that way, too.”
In the past, Brown said, African American women weren’t allowed in many salons. “We have slowly but surely moved up. African American women will make sure they look good. This is another area to build up the worth of African American women: that their looks matter, and that their time matters also … Our time is valuable; we’re busy professionals. At Fringe we respect the time of the client.”
“I love the diversity aspect of my work,” Brown adds. “I look at hair as a fabric or a textile. I love the opportunity to create different looks and keep everyone trendy!
Brown‘s family history figures in to her passion: “My great grandmother and grandmother were both licensed stylists,” she says. “I wonder what they’d say about what I’m doing now. I’d love to hear my grandmother’s comments!”
Fringe Salon Spa, 624 S. Gammon Road (corner of Gammon and Watts roads in Gammon Place) is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 9-6; Thursday 9-7; and Saturday 8-5. You can visit them on Facebook and see pictures of happy clients. The phone number is 257-HAIR (257-4247).