SOUTH LOOP — A half-kitchen, half-old Hollywood theme may seem like strange decor for a hair care supply shop, but for Peggy Arthur it was a natural choice.
The kitchen aspects stem from the history of the natural hair movement for black women — something Arthur's extremely passionate about.
"The theme behind Curl Kitchen is kitchen beauticians, getting our hair done in the kitchen like we did back in the day," the Louisville, Ky., native said.
"Just bringing up good memories of the past, and also looking toward the future of our community as well. Because the natural hair community is a very large community, and from my experience, I've been really welcomed by it in this city," Arthur said.
The glamour in the space is also purposeful: "Well, I love old Hollywood, and I thought, 'What do women love?' I wanted there to be a 'dressing room' vibe," she said.
Curl Kitchen isn't a salon, but it's more than a store. Arthur hopes to host workshops at the storefront's single wash bowl, providing free services to one lucky customer a month while educating the South Loop community about the best ways to transition to or maintain natural hair styles.
Arthur's not a stylist herself — she works at a brokerage firm in the Loop — but she's a self-described "product junkie" who vets everything she sells after a rough personal transition away from relaxed hair that was filled with stops and starts.
When she first decided to part ways with her flat iron, "It was scary," she said.
"I needed advice on what to use, how to use it, how to get my hair to a place where it was presentable for an office environment," she said. But beyond product recommendations or tutorials, "I needed moral support," she said.
She hopes Curl Kitchen will offer women all of the above.
Her interest in using the space as a community center to connect South Loop and other nearby residents with resources, hair-related and otherwise, is no surprise to her mom, Queen.
Queen Arthur, who has a home in Louisville but spends lots of time in Chicago with her daughter, is quick to brag that Peggy has always been a giver.
"Ever since middle school — even younger than that, she's always been helping people," Arthur said. "She was in Key Club, she volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House."
"I always said, when I have a company, my outreach will be different. It will be more something close to home," said Peggy Arthur, who plans to keep her day job, but hopes to grow Curl Kitchen into a franchise with locations around Chicago and beyond.
Arthur only stocks all-natural products, and only buys from lines where she has a relationship with the manufacturers. Ashley Lauren, an Evanston-based hair care line, is prominently featured.
Arthur also hopes to host workshops for customers who'd rather learn how to make their own products at home.
The shop had its soft opening Friday, but will host a grand opening celebration on Mother's Day. Peggy, Queen, and Queen's mother Peggy Arthur Sr., will all be there to celebrate.