Updated: Jul 29, 2021
“Who would have thought that over the years, this building was once used as a disco, a donut shop, and a bar? Isn’t that crazy,” Ariel said, waving a pair of scissors in the air.
Walking into the Lower Lights Salon on a Thursday afternoon and being greeted by a tray of leftover birthday cupcakes, upbeat background music, and an active Keurig machine, it isn’t too far off to imagine the space hosting those community gathering types of businesses. The idea of Lower Lights Salon (“The Salon”) began as a dream of a Rachel’s House graduate who longed to have a salon that offered a quality, full-service salon experience for all people at affordable prices.
Five years ago, the Salon was launched as a social enterprise ministry of Lower Lights Ministries with the goal of providing quality services at affordable prices to those living in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus. Salon manager, Ariel Holland describes the Salon as “a hub, quite literally” since it sits on a corner of the busy intersection of West Broad Street and Glenwood Avenue. She said that along with customers who come for their hair appointments, there are people who come in “from the streets” for a cold bottle of water or a cup of hot coffee, depending on the season.
“I want everyone to feel welcome when they walk in and beautiful inside and out when they leave, regardless if they are getting their hair done or not.”
Immediately after Ariel said that and almost as if on cue, a man walked in from the streets asking if he could wash the windows for some extra cash. After offering him birthday cupcakes, Courtney, the salon receptionist and recent Lower Lights Recovery graduate, ran in the back and came out with a cold bottle of water and a bag of personal hygiene items.
Typical of all the Lower Lights Ministries programs, the staff at the Salon identifies needs in the community and then creatively seeks ways to help fill in the gaps. This is how Wednesdays became known as “Outreach Day,” where the staff sets aside one day a week to create a salon experience for new residents in any of the Lower Lights Ministries’ housing programs as well as other treatment center program residents. For women who have been incarcerated for a long time, being pampered at the Salon for the afternoon has not only helped ease their transition but in their words, “made them feel like a human again.”
Several months ago, the Salon hosted “Three Women and a Shovel,” a group of 65+ year old women from the neighborhood. Their goal is to make Franklinton a beautiful place for everyone to live. They pick up trash, get flowers and plants donated from local stores and nurseries to plant throughout the neighborhood, and help those whose health conditions make it challenging to keep up with their yards. As a way of thanking the group for serving the neighborhood, the Salon staff provided a full-service salon experience for the ladies, including hand and arm massages, facials, and hair styling. From that experience, the Salon not only gained some loyal customers but friends as well.
A couple weeks ago, the Salon was contacted by the Hope Center, a Hilltop neighborhood resource center, to see if the staff would be willing to provide haircuts to some of their neighborhood clients, many of whom are either homeless or low income. From that conversation, the “Summer Beauty Lunch” event was created. As part of the planning, Megan, a professional instructor at the Aveda Institute and a weekly volunteer stylist at the Salon, contacted her stylist friends and they joined forces with the Salon in providing free haircuts and lunch to over 50 people.
Courtney described the event as a great way to share God’s love by helping neighbors, who are sometimes forgotten or overlooked, feel pampered and good about themselves.
Although the Salon is not usually one of the first programs that comes to mind when thinking about Lower Lights Ministries, the mission is still the same; “restoration of the whole person and communities through transformative relationships.” The Salon may not sell donuts or have a disco ball, but it is still a gathering place where everyone is welcomed as a friend and leaves feeling good from experiencing the beauty of community.
*If you would like to make an appointment at the Salon, please call 614-928-3398 or visit the website at www.lowerlightssalon.com.