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After 68 years in business, Portland Black-owned salon gets national recognition

Dean's Beauty Salon and Barber Shop, as well as two other Portland properties associated with Black history, are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Northeast Portland salon is celebrating some 68 years in business. That’s a huge achievement in itself, but the family that started it has also created a legacy of now truly historical proportions. 

Dean's Beauty Salon and Barber Shop at 215 Northeast Hancock Street is the oldest, continually-operated Black-owned business in Oregon. In February, they were added to the National Register of Historic Places. They'll celebrate that honor this weekend, though the owner says every day at Dean's feels like a family gathering.

“In this salon you can be who you are. You can let your hair down because that's what we do in here is do our hair,” said owner and stylist Kimberly Brown. “It's a place where Black women and Black men can find each other, and find services and resources and all kind of things.”

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Brown’s grandparents, Benjamin and Mary “Rose” Dean, opened the business in 1954. Brown said they weren't looking to get rich; they simply wanted something that was theirs. As a third-generation owner, Brown feels the same way about community. Clients such as Shonda Morris appreciate that.

"[Kimberly’s] mother actually used to do my mother's hair,” said Morris, while Brown straightened her shoulder-length hair. “And her grandmother used to do my grandmother’s hair!”

In addition to Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop, Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability filed nominations for two other properties associated with Black history to be considered for listing in the National Register of Historic Places: Golden West Hotel and Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. All three received the designation.

“I think it's amazing," said Morris. "She deserves it."

On July 23, Brown will host a block party at the salon from noon to 5 p.m. to celebrate the honor and thank her customers.

“There would be no Dean's without the clients,” said Brown.

Over the decades, Brown said many clients have moved out of the salon’s neighborhood; generations once segregated by redlining, then pushed out by gentrification. But in the salon, Brown said they will always have a home to return to.

“We're just going to become a community again,” said Brown. “If you live in Beaverton, Gresham, Vancouver, anywhere in the metro area, you're welcome to come on in and hang out with us so we can show our appreciation for keeping us in business for 68 years.”

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