Octavia Cox styles her grandmother Freda Long’s hair Friday at Freda’s Beauty Rama, her grandmother’s salon in Cedar Rapids. Long, now 88, was the first licensed professional in the Corridor to be able to cut and style the hair of the black community. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)
CEDAR RAPIDS — Freda’s Beauty Rama and Gift Shop, a historic Black-owned business housed in a quaint brick building in the Oakhill Jackson neighborhood, was a “second home” for Edwin Montgomery, his siblings and friends who were growing up.
Her mother, Freda Long, owned the store at 1028 12th Ave for decades. SE, so it’s always been in their lives.
Many people call her mother “Mama Freda” – she was always there to dress them up, offer advice and provide space to organize kitchens for the church. The children would leave the Jane Boyd Community House to stop at Freda’s Shop and buy candies and snacks before returning to the Community Center to play.
“The shop was pretty much home because my mom worked around the clock, late into the evening,” said Montgomery, her eldest son. “…There’s a lifetime of memories with this building and this area.”
After graduating from high school, Long – one of 10 siblings – said her parents couldn’t afford to send her to nursing school. She chose to become a cosmetologist instead, but was denied admission to the Paris Academy of Cedar Rapids due to her race.
“They let me know that they don’t accept black people or that I should go somewhere else in Iowa to a black college because they don’t accept black people,” Long said. “I went out there and came home and told my mom, and I just cried.”
She picked herself up and worked at Armstrong’s department store to afford to attend Crescent Beauty School in Des Moines, one of the only beauty schools in Iowa to enroll black women. Upon her return to Cedar Rapids, she worked at Thelma Price’s Eighth Avenue SE beauty salon before finally owning her own in the 1960s.
Long, now 88, was the Corridor’s first licensed professional to cut and style the hair of the black community and served Cedar Rapids for decades – first on Ninth Street SE before moving to the current building from 12th Avenue SE.
But inspections by city building services staff this year revealed concerns about falling pieces of the building’s brick facade. In June, the city sent Montgomery, the landlord, a notice of violation for the exterior wall to bring the store into compliance with Cedar Rapids housing code following an inspection in February.
Now the community is mobilizing to raise $50,000 through GoFundMe. Local videographer Joshua Booth kicked off the fundraising effort this week and has raised more than $8,300 so far to help pay for repairs and get the property back in shape to keep this piece of life alive. local black history.
Long, who is mostly retired from the store, said she didn’t have the money to fix it, but wanted to save it to give to her granddaughter, Octavia.
“I didn’t know so many people loved me, and it feels good knowing so many people love me and are there for me, and they did all of this,” Long said of the effort. fundraising.
Building repairs needed
The city does not seek to demolish the building or issue fines, and is usually able to resolve most property issues through voluntary compliance. A notice of violation requires the landlord to remedy the condition of the wall, city building services staff said.
It would be up to the owner to determine how to mitigate the code violation. Montgomery said he was working on getting estimates from a masonry company, but he predicts it will take about $80,000 to repair the wall.
Building services personnel discovered on February 14 that the brick facade was falling to the sidewalk at 1028 12th Ave. SE. An inspection of the building showed the facade leaned against the east wall of the structure, which is adjacent to the sidewalk, staff said. The city closed the sidewalk to pedestrians due to the potential danger.
Currently, the property does not have a historic landmark designation, but community development staff said it is possible it could be recognized as a local landmark. The property is recognized by the program “History Happened Here!” historical marker program with a sign in front of the building.
If the family requests and receives an official designation, the property will be eligible for the Historic Rehabilitation Program, which provides up to $7,500 for exterior improvements to buildings designated as local landmarks. Exterior alterations to these properties require a historic preservation review.
“Significant figure” in the history of the CR
Felicite Wolfe, curator and collections manager at the Cedar Rapids-based African American Museum of Iowa, said Long was an “important figure” as she persevered to graduate from beauty school at the time. by Jim Crow.
The Crescent Beauty School was run by Pauline Humphrey, who Wolfe said saw the need to empower other black women to pursue a career in hairdressing.
“Freda took that empowerment and success to heart to open her own boutique,” Wolfe said. “Freda’s Beauty Rama has been a landmark for the Oakhill Jackson community for decades, serving the area as a business and community gathering space, as well as a safe haven for neighborhood children.”
Long said she has valued all of her clients over the years, especially those she knew as babies and watched grow up.
She played a role in inspiring generations of beauticians who came behind her and got their start at Freda’s Beauty Rama – teaching people in Davenport, Waterloo and elsewhere around Iowa. Many stayed and opened their own stores around Cedar Rapids.
Long said she enjoyed the decades she spent working at her namesake business, and now she wants to see her granddaughter run the shop the way she wants.
“It felt good to know that she said she wanted to be like me,” Long said. “It really made me feel good. I must have lived a decent life if she wants to be like me and she likes being at the beauty salon every day. … Few kids say they want to be like their grand- mother.
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Octavia Cox shampoos her grandmother Freda Long’s hair Friday at Freda’s Beauty Rama, her grandmother’s salon in Cedar Rapids. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)
Octavia Cox styles her grandmother Freda Long’s hair Friday at Freda’s Beauty Rama, her grandmother’s salon in Cedar Rapids. The AS social media campaign is raising funds to help repair the historic show building. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)
Octavia Cox styles her grandmother Freda Long’s hair Friday at Freda’s Beauty Rama, her grandmother’s salon in southeast Cedar Rapids. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)
Freda Long waits for her hair to dry Friday at Freda’s Beauty Rama, her salon in Cedar Rapids. Long, now 88, was the first licensed professional in the Corridor to be able to cut and style the hair of the black community. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)
Beauty Rama de Freda is pictured Friday in Cedar Rapids. The outside sidewalk was closed pending repairs to the building. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)