Black History Month: Salon owner has generations of admirers

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COLUMBIA - Mary Smith owns a hair salon on the corner of Forest and Grand Avenue, in one of Columbia's inner city neighborhoods. 

The shop has sat on that corner for over 40 years, but what looks like an old home is what some of her clients call a Columbia staple.

Smith started doing hair in Kansas City, after marrying a man from Columbia, she moved here and has stayed since then.

Over the years she has helped numerous women get their start in the beauty industry after they graduate from hair school.

One beautician, Charnell Hickem, said she owes a lot of her career to Smith.

"I came here in 2010 straight out of hair school, and I was with Mary Smith for about two-and-a-half years. I then branched off and started my own shop on 70 and I have been back now for about two-and-a-half years," Hickem said.

Smith has clients who have been with her for as long as she has owned the shop.

Lula Smith said she wouldn't have her beauty shop experience any other way.

"It's a very very nice place to come, I've never gone any place else," Lulu Smith said. 

Sarah Brown, another beautician in Columbia, said Smith did more than just get her on her feet.

"I worked for Mary Smith for about five years, and although I have my own shop now, we still have a really good relationship, and I love her," Brown said.

Mary Smith said she loves having an impact on peoples lives, and she thinks it is important to keep a good relationship with the people that have come through her shop.

There have been generations of families doing that.

She has people travel to her from surrounding cities, and she said they are some of her most loyal customers.

"I work to make this salon a home away from home. I haven't changed my prices in over 30 years. I want to make sure everyone can afford to get their hair done and have an enjoyable experience," Smith said.

When Smith is not behind a chair making people feel beautiful, she works in the community and is very active in her church.

There she is known as Mother Mary and she works with the other mothers in the church,  the youth and young adults.

The Bishop of Urban Empowerment, Lester Woods Jr, speaks very highly of Smith.

"Through the gifts that God has given her, she has used those gifts to bring an impact to the people, and she has given unselfishly, untiringly, and has been a complete blessing to everyone that has come in contact with her," Woods said. 

People who know Smith call her a selfless giver. 

Smith said, "When I see that there is a need, its something in me that makes me want to help. Its not that i can pass it up, and thats the way I am, that's Mary Smith, thats me."