Husband and wife Allen Dang and Cindy Huynh have styled hair at Ocean Hair Design for 22 years. Last year, their Ingleside parlor became a San Francisco Legacy Business, earn- ing recognition from the city’s Small Business Commission for its history and significance to the neighborhood.
Since 2005, different developers have proposed demolishing the salon’s storefront at 1619 Ocean Ave. while leaving the married hair stylists to rent month-to-month. By not providing Ocean Hair Design a lease, the developers have left Huynh and Dang in limbo — unable to renovate their storefront and going to work every day without knowing whether they will have a salon to work at a month later.
“I kind of gave up,” Huynh said. “At first I was shocked — but it’s gone for so many years now so I just go day-by-day, for as many days as I can, until they tell me to move.”
This February, the salon’s present landlord, the real estate developer TJ Development, entered the city’s Environmental Impact Review for a plan that would replace Ocean Hair Design’s building and three neighboring buildings with a condominium.
Huynh and Dang opened their salon in 1996, when the nondescript storefront and simple interior mirrored a neighborhood with a commercial corridor that gathered little foot traffic. One 60-hour work week after another, they spent their early adulthoods building their reputations as hair stylists and making many friends in their neighborhood.
“The haircuts are excellent,” said Ingleside resident and 20-year regular Jerry Hall, whose wife, son and grandson frequent the salon. “That’s why you keep coming back.”
The family-owned business offers haircuts between $20 and $35, but for many, the salon holds more importance as a place to discuss personal lives with their two longtime friends.
“We’ve sort of grown up with each other,” said Bruce Crocker, 71, who has attended the salon since the year they opened. “We talk about family values, their kids growing up and their kids going to college.”
Huynh and Dang took refuge in the states in the 1980s from Vietnam, shortly after war devastated their native land. They met at Miss Marty’s Beauty School in the South of Market Area, where they shared the same passion and received their hair styling licenses together.
“I enjoy making people beautiful — changing their look, making them younger — happy, more confident,” said Dang, who has more than once given a free haircut to those who could not afford one. “If I see them happy, I’m happy.”
The two married in 1993 and bought a house near where Huynh would open shop three years later. They have worked side-by-side ever since.
“When Cindy wasn’t available, Allen did a bang-up job too. They’re both equally talented, they’re really good folks and they run a sweet shop,” regular Willa Ortega said.
When Ocean Avenue functioned more like a highway than today’s thriving commercial corridor, Huynh helped the Ocean Avenue Association advocate for safer streets. Her children have attended public schools near their shop, and she and Dang participated in school events while contributing to their fundraising efforts.
If Ocean Hair Design is demolished, its 30-year hair styling professionals are likely to lose the majority of 22 years of clientele. But Huynh, a mother of three, remains certain that regard- less what happens, she will continue to style hair — it is what she loves and how she provides for her family.
It was their work at the salon that afforded their eldest child, Vivian, to attend UC Davis, where she graduated last year.
When Ingleside was a more precarious neighborhood, their children would spend their afternoons at Ocean Hair Design after school, sometimes visiting the previous Ingleside library. At the salon, they would do their homework and could watch television in the back room when they finished. When their mother was sick, Vivian would help answer the phone and set up appointments. The youngest sister still spends time at the salon after school.
“It was like an extension of my home,” said Vivian, now 22, who graduated from UC Davis last year. “It’s always good to improve the community, but there are some things where if you lose them, the community loses what it was.”
Ocean Hair Design is located at 1619 Ocean Ave. and can be reached at (415) 841-1860.
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