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Image: Daniel Root

Customers Yvonne Potter (left) and Beulah Dennis

“The ‘beauty’ part of the beauty salon is coming in and being with people,” Nancy says, adding that she thinks it best for women “to age with a little grace.”

“I had a customer who came in all black-and-blue, and I thought, ‘Have you been in a car wreck?’” she says. “She’d had a face-lift. Let me tell you, a face-lift at 80 is not a pretty thing.”

Janelle says she understands that many women today do their beautifying behind closed doors, pretending they haven’t had any work done. Dee’s Golden Door, she notes, is a vestige of a time when women were more open (at least with each other) about their regimens and, in turn, their lives. “The salon had the social element, the gossip; saying things in front of God and everyone,” she says. “You can be real here.”

Dee’s enduring appeal is confirmed by Lotus. Thirty years younger than most of Dee’s clients, Lotus is vivacious, the sort of gal one might describe with the word “va-va-voom.” She has big green eyes and lavender eye shadow and Sophia Loren cheekbones. Her hair is the kind that many women, of any age, would kill for: a sun-kissed honey hue that’s helped along by Linda, who’s been styling Lotus’s hair for years.

“I sleep with a donut pillow under my neck, so my hair lightly rests on my satin pillowcase. I even know how to turn in my sleep without messing it up.” —Lotus, office manager and bookkeeper

“It’s so nice to come here—it’s relaxing,” Lotus says. “It’s nice when someone really cares how your week went.”

Watching Linda style Lotus’s hair is like watching a painter at work. Some things look like mistakes, such as back-combing that results in a vertical froth so tall, Lotus could hide the People magazine she’s reading within it. But eventually the manipulations become more precise and the curls take on real structure. There is a sweep of bangs, a high crown of loose curls, and the spraying of lacquer into a style that might be pegged to the early 1960s.

Linda hands Lotus a mirror and watches her client admire herself from all angles. “I get a lot of compliments on my hair,” says Lotus, writing Linda a check. “Not only from women, but young girls, and men. It’s a work of art.” That they will repeat this process next week—for the cost of $18 before tip—needn’t even be discussed.

“It’s soft and feminine,” says Linda, finishing her work with a final blast of hair spray.

“All the things you want to look when you walk out of here,” Lotus adds, touching up her lipstick before she goes. “Why would I change it?”