A Monroe woman opens salon, boutique on W. Front St.
Eleshia Thornton has been cutting hair since she was nine.
Hair and clothing have long been the passion of the residents of Monroe. And today, she hopes to turn her love for the two into a sustainable brick and mortar business.
She opens Elegant Styles by E and Judy’s Boutique, a hair salon and a small fashion boutique installed in her new window at 113 W. Front St.
âNot only can you come and have your hair done, but you can also get the whole outfit,â Thornton said. “I want you to leave here feeling good about yourself.”
Sideways bustle has become a day job
Prior to opening a storefront, Thornton operated his business from his home as a side gig. His full-time job was working at the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit.
âI really wanted to embark on a career that I love,â she said. âIt’s the old adage, ‘If you love what you do, it’s not really work.’ And I really like doing that.
Thornton wanted to branch out and see if his dream could come true. After spending several weeks praying about it, she decided to take six weeks off from work and explore her options.
And two weeks after her leave, she fell on the storefront. She’d often walked through downtown and peered through empty storefronts, imagining what a living room might look like in the spaces.
Thornton said that seeing the space on Front Street, she quickly realized its potential. As soon as she walked through it, she knew it was the perfect place.
âI knew that was it,â she said. “I looked around and I could see everything.”
The rental of the current space was done quickly. She met the owner, who was hesitant at first as this would be Thornton’s first business. But she was determined to see her dream come true.
âIt happened so fast,â she said. “But then I had this place and it was like my dreams were here.”
She spent months lovingly shaping the space into her ideal vision. A modern and elegant interior is enhanced with a gold accent. She installed updated light, mirrors and screens, and decorated the walls with art and sayings that she hopes will inspire her clients.
âSometimes I’m overwhelmed with the process, but I just want it to be fair,â Thornton said. âWhen people come here, I want them to get what we as humans deserve. We are working so hard; we’re going through so much – we deserve to have certain (experiences) about us. You deserve to look and feel good. And if you are feeling good, then you are.
The boutique part of Thornton’s business is in honor of his late mother, Judy, who inspired the name. Tucked away in the back part of the living room, it will feature a variety of clothing items. The love of fashion was a passion shared between mother and daughter.
âI wanted something that people could see as a reminder of her,â Thornton said. âShe was my everything. This part is in memory of her.
“I was free”
Being able to own your own salon has a deeper meaning for Thornton. It’s a job she thought she could never do.
At the age of 14, he was diagnosed with severe kidney disease. For almost 10 years, she underwent dialysis several times a week.
âStyling my hair has always been my dream, but I thought I couldn’t have it,â Thornton said. âI was on dialysis three times a week. I was just emptied. I thought there was no way I could stand on a chair everyday.
She went on to study at Monroe County Community College, exploring careers that would allow her to work while managing her illness. She had an affinity for social work because it would allow her to help people.
âMy heart is to help people,â she said. âThat’s all I want to do – help people. “
His illness caused Thornton to struggle to maintain his weight. She also had heart problems, which resulted in surgery. And these experiences gave her a negative image of herself.
âOne day I looked at myself in the mirror and I was crying – I thought I was ugly,â she said. âBut I told myself that I must love myself. Either way, I had to love myself and love the body I was in.
Thornton said putting on makeup and hair made her feel better and gave her confidence. It played a huge role in inspiring her love of hair, she said.
But a few years ago, after graduating, she found out she was eligible for a kidney transplant. And after receiving one from a donor, Thornton said it changed his outlook on life.
âI was free – I was healed and I was free,â she said. âMy life has reopened. I could run after whatever I wanted to do without feeling sick. Nothing was holding me back.
It is this feeling that motivates her to move forward. Thornton said she got a second chance at life and wanted to use this opportunity to the fullest of her ability.
More than a job
Thornton says she invested her savings in the business. But for her, it’s more than money.
âMoney isn’t everything for me,â she said. âI want someone to come and feel they deserve to be here; as if they deserved to be pampered.
The overall goal is to establish a full service beauty salon. But to begin with, Thornton plans to share her craft with the community as she grows her business.
She said she styles all hair styles and is aware that each client has their own unique texture. She creates her own wigs; styles all kinds and makes dreads, hooks and other intricate styles. Some jobs can take several hours, she said.
Thornton said she was convinced everything would fall into place. And she hopes to hire additional stylists. Thornton also feels called upon to provide a beauty salon in Monroe that is inclusive and welcoming to all. As a black woman, she said she and several other area residents have struggled to find salons in the area that can provide the services they need.
This experience is why she is so willing to work with anyone who walks into her store.
âPeople are sometimes uncomfortable acknowledging that this is a problem here at Monroe,â she said. âHair is hair. Sometimes it is smoother or has a different texture. â¦ Sometimes stylists just lack the confidence to try something new and step out of (their) comfort zone.
Thornton says she knows that when a client sits in their chair, they can face a number of issues: stress at work, family issues, financial issues.
So she wants to provide a service that relaxes the customer while honoring them as an individual, she said.
âBefore I style each client’s hair, I pray,â she said. “I pray to give them exactly what they want, so when they get out of my chair they’re relaxed and they’ve had time just for themselves.”
Thornton plans to open its salon today. For more information, find his companies on Facebook.