HIGHLAND PARK – After a minivan crashed into the front of Michael Bianc Salon and Spa in Highland Park, the owners Rahsaan Settles and Dorelle Russ, found out the true meaning of community support.
“As soon as it (accident) happened, I was trying to make arrangements to work at another place,” said Settles, who relocated his business to Highland Park last December.
The owners of three local salons – The Loft Salon, Rutgers Barber Shop and the Hair Company – offered space in their businesses to Settles and Russ.
“A lot of people stepped up and helped us out. They said, ‘Whatever you guys need, you’re welcome to come in,’” Settles said.
Russ worked for nearly three weeks at The Loft Salon and Settles worked about the same time at Rutgers Barber Shop.
“We were able to take our regulars and make sure the people who work for us continued to get a paycheck. This was instrumental in maintaining our base,” Settles said.
Ann Marie, the owner of The Loft Salon, who only goes by her first name, said she offered space in her shop because she would have wanted someone to help her out if she were in the same situation.
“I want to help anyone I can in my industry and neighborhood. We configured my space for what they needed and I gave them a place to work for a while,” she said. “It was an absolute pleasure having them here. It was wonderful. I made a new friend. They’re such good people.”
Ann Marie said she didn’t know Settles or Russ before April 13 accident.
Daren Perez, owner of Rutgers Barber Shop, said he wanted to help out during the crisis.
“My reason for extending myself to Rahsaan was simple – I had a chair available. And I felt it was the right thing to do in the time of crisis within the community. I thought about the turmoil that Rahsaan and his staff were going through,” he said.
James McCrone, executive director of Main Street Highland Park, the non-profit that promotes businesses along Raritan Avenue in the borough, said the way the businesses pulled together for Rahsaan and Dorelle shows the power of a downtown community.
“The best part of this story is how people pulled together for Rahsaan and Dorelle,” he said. “In terrible, adverse conditions, people rallied around an important business. It speaks to the importance of a downtown. I just don’t think that people would have the same sense if it had happened at the mall as they do when it happens in a local downtown.”
The owners have been back at Michael Bianc, which is located at 324 Raritan Ave., for about 10 days, but construction work is still needed.
“There is structural damage. The car hit the support beams. Our waiting area was almost completely destroyed,” Settles said. “We’re waiting on the permits and expect them by Monday (May 23). As soon as we get the permits back, work can start.”
Settles said architects have told him it will take about a month to complete the work once it starts. Settles and Russ are planning a re-grand opening once the work is finished.
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