With just one step into Le’Jemalik Salon and Boutique, the feeling of glamour is prevalent. But the crystal chandelier and powdery pink walls of the waiting area are only just the beginning of the allure of this full service salon.
At the edge of the lobby are two sets of swinging doors that open into an oasis for all hair-covering women. The woman-only setting provides women who cover their hair with a place to relax without the worry of men walking in. According to Huda Quhshi, owner, hijab-wearing and hair-covering women no longer have to get their hair done in basements and backrooms or have towel in hand, ready to cover up in the presence of a man, but can enjoy the relaxation that comes with some pampering.
“They’re so happy to finally have a space for them. You know that they can come in and be comfortable and not worry,” said Quhshi standing in the handcrafted salon she has been designing since she was 17.
And now after over 10 years of dreaming about opening what she calls a safe space salon and half a year in business, Quhshi was honored by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on July 13 in celebration of Eid.
“One of the great things about the New York City story is that people for generations have come here from all over the world with very little money, but an intensity to accomplish. And now we are seeing that in this community with a young entrepreneur who is providing a critical service, a safe space, a community need,” said Stringer during a recent tour of the establishment. “There’s such a hatred out there, there’s such anti-immigrant feeling, mostly because we have a commander-in-chief who is dragging us down in a sea of hatred. I think it’s more important now than ever to highlight the entrepreneurial diversity of our city.”
Despite tensions on a national level, Quhshi said she has been overwhelmed with positive feedback, receiving media coverage around her grand opening. The business has continued to grow through the first few months. Quhshi said people have driven hours to come see the space which is serving around 30 clients a week. Though things slowed down during Eid, she said, business is beginning to pick up for wedding season.
“The community was excited. They were really happy about it. Online was a different story,” said Quhshi, who noted that she had gotten a few negative comments on comment boards. But, according to her, she stays positive by scrolling past the hate and focusing on the need she is serving.
“It’s unfair that we didn’t have a space where we could go and just feel normal, get our hair done, get our makeup done and just feel at ease,” said Quhshi. “Once customers come into the salon, I feel like they leave all those worries aside and come just to be pampered.”
She says over the past few months the space hasn’t been a place to talk about politics but a place to come to forget about the world.
Quhshi, with over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, wanted to provide a range of services. Halal nail polish and brows, bridal and special event full services, hair cuts, henna, traditional accessory rental, waxing, dress sales, makeup — Le’Jemalik puts an emphasis on glamour and beauty within the religious restrictions of Islam as well as standard services.
“We all love to look beautiful. We all have that in our nature,” said a hijab-wearing customer who visited the salon but chose not to share her name to protect her privacy. “We really needed this space.”
The Staten Island resident said it had been 15 years since she had had a professional haircut, and that, despite some people’s thoughts that hijab-wearing women shouldn’t have to look beautiful, beauty is something all kinds of women love.
But, stressed Quhshi, the safe space is not just for women who cover for Islam but all women who cover for religious reasons as well as women who do not abide by religious standards.
“This is for all women. People get the wrong impression that this is just for women who cover… I want them to know that anyone is welcome,” said Quhshi.
In the coming months, Quhshi said she hopes to start teaching seminars. and, in the years to come, open more salons.