Words by Liesel Schmidt Photos Courtesy of Hazel O Salon
As an Army wife, Hazel Odessa Rhodes knew she needed to have a skill that would be easily taken to any station that her husband, Tom, was sent. It was this and her love of style and “all things girly” that inspired her to attend the Shelton Beauty College in Newport News while Tom was stationed at Ft. Eustis. The year was 1951.
By 1965, Tom and Hazel had a child and had been around the world to France and back. They found themselves stationed at Ft. Belvoir. It was there that Hazel truly built her career as a beautician for a clientele of Army wives and her family grew through the addition of five more children—four of whom would later go on to join the Army themselves.
Both Hazel and Tom were active in their community, making regular financial contributions and volunteering much of their time to local organizations, especially the church. Hazel joined the Woodlawn African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1968, ushered in the church, joined the choir, became President of the Food Bank and led several initiatives to support the sick and elderly in addition to working full-time with Fairfax County Food Services. After being sent to Vietnam in 1968 and Thailand in 1969, Tom returned home and taught Sunday school as well as volunteered to serve on the Salvation Army's mobile food truck, serving soup and hot chocolate to those in need in the winters.
Generations later, Hazel served as her granddaughters’ inspiration for a salon in Old Town—one that, consequently, bears her name. Opened in 2019, Hazel O. Salon is one of the few in the country that fully services all hair types. With stylists from all backgrounds and specialties, the salon performs a wide variety of services that accommodate guests with textured hair, as well as those who do not.
“My fondest memories of my grandmother are of her doing my hair and watching her do other women’s hair,” says Nikita Montgomery, co-founder and co-owner of Hazel O., along with her cousin, Marcia Rhodes-Tyler. “While I heard a lot of laughs and counsel take place, I never saw much money exchanged. It showed me that doing hair was almost another form of ministry for my grandmother. She used that time to connect with and counsel women, leaving their hair beautiful and souls refreshed. The salon is a legacy because it embodies her story and what coming to the salon is about for many women,” Montgomery continues. “It also provides an opportunity for women from different backgrounds within Old Town and Alexandria to connect. I believe it honors my grandmother by acting as an escape for our guests. All of our clients note how warm the salon feels and the fact that they want to come back, which is exactly how it felt at my grandmother's home.”
Hazel O. Salon
108 N. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314