Beauty studio forced to close 2 weeks after opening
A mere two weeks after Ah-Shí Beauty owner Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere opened her second storefront at the Shopping Center Plaza in Window Rock, the Navajo Nation identified its first COVID-19 cases.
A couple of days after that, the Division of Economic Development sent out a memo to all businesses stating the Navajo Health Command Operations Center recommended limiting business to stop the spread, effective immediately.
“I was upset at first. However I’ve learned to control things I can control,” said LaFrance-Chachere, who is from Beeshbito, Arizona. “This pandemic is out of my reach,” she said. “I have to put my team first and protect them. I was sick to my stomach because I worked hard to open both locations and I had to close down. But I dug deep and prayed that everything will be OK.”
In December, LaFrance-Chachere found great success with the opening of the first Native American-owned beauty studio in downtown Gallup. But since the coronavirus has swept through the Navajo Nation and McKinley County, where Gallup is considered a hot zone, this storefront has also been closed down temporarily.
“I’ve set a strong presence in the city,” said LaFrance-Chachere. “My goal was to showcase we can operate off and on Diné Nation. It is possible. Ah-Shí Beauty began to build momentum. I was on track to hire a team and continue to build an empire in the beauty industry.”
LaFrance-Chachere said she began product development for Ah-Shí Beauty in 2012. She slowly built the product line, looking for perfection. Her goal was to open the first stores on and near the Diné Nation.
“The beauty industry alone ignores our people,” said LaFrance-Chachere. “I was tired of waiting for them to respectfully represent us. Since I was a child I can never find a beauty brand that I can relate to.”
Being Diné and African-American, she said finding the correct foundation shade was nearly impossible. Her Ah-Shí Diné Nation line has foundation in not only her skin type and shade, but for all indigenous beauties looking for that perfect shade.
“Our future generations will have representation in the beauty industry now,” said LaFrance-Chachere. “We are a beauty brand we can relate to! A beauty brand that is for the people, nihi Dineba’!”
JT Willie, director of the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development, did not answer questions the Times sent to him on the status of small businesses on Navajo. But in a recent webinar Willie hosted, he did say the division is developing health-related amenities to help businesses stay financially healthy and to be mindful of how they move forward.
“Here on Navajo Nation and surrounding areas where we face the unfortunate situation that a lot of our small businesses owners had to close down their businesses temporarily,” said Willie, “it is our goal here to kind of bridge a way so we can make it through this time we are going through.”
President Jonathan Nez has stated that in order to open up the Navajo Nation again they will be following Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which state there have to be 14 consecutive days with no increase in cases. When the Nation gets to this point, Nez said they would be opening Navajo up in phases.
LaFrance-Chachere said the process wasn’t easy especially when opening two stores off and on the Navajo Nation, but she is appreciative to DED, Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Inc., and the support she received from the city of Gallup, BID, Gallup Main Street, Gallup Small Business Development, Gallup Chamber of Commerce and other Gallup business owners.
“I ran into a few roadblocks but I was preparing myself for any obstacles,” said LaFrance-Chachere. “I approach problems head-on and I will find a solution. One thing for sure: Everyone in NNDED knows me because I stayed on top of my paperwork process and asked questions.
“Being respectful and kind is my approach in everything,” she said. “Even when people tried to give me a hard time I returned with a smile. Kindness wins every time.”
Her family was the backbone to all of this, she said. Though her stores are closed temporarily, LaFrance-Chachere said customers can still shop online.
“When I get the OK to open up, my staff can work again and provide for their families,” said LaFrance-Chachere.
“We can continue to bring happiness to our Ah-Shí Beauty cuties when they look at their makeup or skin after trying our products. “The light and smile I see when they look at their beauty is what I miss the most and I cannot wait to open up again,” she said.
Information: @ahshibeauty, ahshibeauty.com.