Decades of Style: Hairstylist operates salon for more than 50 years

·2 min read

Oct. 3—VALDOSTA — The Russell Vanity Box has been a fixture on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for 57 years.

Owner Barbara Byrd, 85, plans to maintain her hairstyling salon until she's 90 years old.

The Valdosta native began her cosmetology journey in 1962, later opening the Vanity Box in 1964.

"All my adult life, I've been doing hair," she said.

The mother of four said she initially started styling hair for people in the local neighborhood before establishing her business.

Though she's been a mentor to college students, she's currently the sole full-time stylist in her salon.

Prayer is what has sustained the Vanity Box for as long as it has, Byrd said.

"It's been pretty rough some times, but it's convenient," she said of having her salon near her home.

Byrd mainly does press and curl styles or perms for her clients, not offering any braiding or weaving.

Formerly, she said she was a stylist for the deceased at Scotts and Roberts Mortuary.

"They all accepted me," she said. "I had no problem."

Her god-daughter, Valdosta Councilwoman Sandra Tooley, said Byrd is well-respected and shows support to others.

Tooley spent several years living next door to Byrd. She said her mom was Byrd's apprentice during her days of beauty school.

It was tradition for Byrd to style Tooley's hair for her birthday; Tooley called it a birthday gift from Byrd.

"She always did my hair for me on birthdays, even when I was living out of town," Tooley said. "Barbara Ree always sent me a birthday card. She never forgot my birthday."

Byrd said she has one goal for the future of her business.

"Just to work until I can't," she said.

The Russell Vanity Box is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

Call (229) 244-0340 for more information.

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