The pandemic hit New York’s immigrant communities hard, devastating the small business landscape.
Hair-braiding salons, overwhelmingly staffed by women from West Africa, had long served as neighborhood lifelines for braiders and their clients, places to share news and buy jewelry, body lotions and snacks. COVID-19 transformed many of those businesses into dead ends.
Customers started to learn to take care of their own hair. Braiders—many part of an aging generation that came to the city in the 1990s and early 2000s—have been forced to seek other kinds of work.