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Pursuing The American DreamPursuing The American Dream
January, 16 2007

Gladys Jenkins (left) cuts the hair of Marlene Arroyo at Cool Cuts, a salon that re-cently opened. Jenkins, from Costa Rica, focuses primarily upon male customers or women with close-cropped hair styles, but more and more requests for cuts and styling are coming from women. Allyson Levine / LTN Photo

For many people born in the United States, it is easy to take the American dream for granted. For Gladys Jenkins, a native of Costa Rica who recently realized her American dream by opening her own business here in Lincolnton, the achievement has been two countries and almost two decades in the making. Jenkins’s first taste of America came in 1990, when she left Costa Rica to study cosmetology for nine months in New York. She came back in 1997 with her then year-and-a-half old baby and found out what she needed to do to live in the United States legally. Five years later, when all the paperwork was taken care of, Jenkins came here for good, finding a job at Vermont American, where she meant James Jenkins, whom she married in 2003.

With help from her new husband, Jenkins was able to take the first steps toward that elusive American dream. My husband supported me while I went back to cosmetology school and got my license from North Carolina,” said Jenkins. After getting licensed, Jenkins went to work at a salon. When she had a second child, Jenkins quit working for two years to focus on being a mother. Yet the dream of having her own business—as she had back in Costa Rica—was never forgotten.

The dream finally came to fruition three weeks ago, when Jenkins opened Cool Cuts, a hair salon specializing in men and children. So far, business has been good. “People have been really happy with the job I’ve done so far,” Jenkins said. “They want me to keep doing it.” Although Jenkins is running the show by herself right now, she hopes to hire someone to work with her, possibly cutting hair for women as Jenkins continues to focus on men and children. Jenkins has already branched out a little by request. “Women are asking, so now I’m cutting women with short hair,” said Jenkins. Jenkins has big plans for Cool Cuts. In addition to eventually adding another stylist, she hopes to expand her business by using the space next door.

She already has someone who comes in once a week to do massages by appointment, and Jenkins is planning on providing eyebrow waxing for both men and women, as well as highlights for men soon. Even though Cool Cuts has only been open for a few weeks, Jenkins has had lots of good feedback. “People are really happy with the prices,” Jenkins said. She is running a $5 haircut special through Wednesday, Jan. 17. In addition, Tuesdays are senior citizen special days; seniors can get a haircut with a free shampoo for $7 (regularly $9). Seniors hold a special place in Jenkins’s heart, and she wants to be a help to them. “I want to help people through my hands,” said Jenkins. “I want to be a blessing for senior citizens.

Once the business is more established, Jenkins hopes to make Cool Cuts a special place where people can feel relaxed and at home while getting a haircut. She plans to offer coffee and snacks and to set up a comfortable space where customers can relax and listen to music. Jenkins is really interested in hearing what customers want and invites anyone with ideas, opinions or suggestions to send their comments to her. She also wants people to know that she is willing to cut hair after hours, as long as the customer makes an appointment.

Despite running the salon by herself, Jenkins credits her husband with giving her all the support she needed to become an independent businesswoman. “He helped me with everything I had to do here,” Jenkins said. “He really supported me in opening my own business.” For Jenkins, the future looks bright. “I feel excited,” said Jenkins. “I feel happy, like I have realized my dream. I never thought I’d have my own business here. It’s a blessing from the Lord, and I want to take advantage of it.”
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