If the people of Memphis want to look their best, they should look to Madison Heights and its unique clustering of locally-owned beauty businesses.
In the three blocks between Claybrook and McNeil streets, there's First African Hair Braiding, Central Wig and four different salons -- Upscale Cuts, Presidential Barber Shop, Pyramid Famous Cuts and Hair Kingdom -- for cuts and styles, nail treatments, facials and more.
Madison Heights also offers serious convenience. It's part of the Medical District and minutes from Downtown, Midtown and Crosstown. It's easily accessible by mass transit or car and is pedestrian-friendly with charming architecture and a mix of thrift and antique stories, local restaurants and other small businesses.
It's easy to eat, shop and get a haircut or facial without wasting hours driving between locations.
But don't take our word for it. Take a look inside three Madison Heights salons and meet the owners and staff helping Memphians flaunt their fiercest looks.
The Presidential TreatmentOwner Jay Holmes performs a hydrating shave and facial treatment on Pastor Kieron Morman at Presidential Barber Lounge in Madison Heights. (Ziggy Mack)
Presidential Barber Lounge
1320 Madison Avenue | (901) 201-3465 | website
Hours: Tues through Fri 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. | Sat 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The staff of Presidential Barber Lounge said most first time customers have the same first question upon arrival: “Is that a waterfall?”
Owner Jay Holmes opened the shop in spring 2018. He put a water feature in the lobby and is installing a swanky lounge in the back to cement the theme.
"This is a place where you can lay back and chill. As the name says, our service is very presidential," said the 42-year-old Holmes. “We're full service. We focus on the grooming aspect for men."
Presidential has standard hair, beard and mustache services for men but also offers pedicures, manicures, facials, hair coloring, scalp treatments and other grooming and pampering. Holmes said there's an old myth that men who care about grooming aren't masculine, but his staff and the clients that walk into his shop debunk this misconception.
“You have to take care of your hair and your skin,” he said. “Each and every one of our barbers are passionate about what we're doing.”
A native Memphian, Holmes has been cutting hair since high school. Now he owns his own shop, teaches part time for Tennessee Tech and is working on a barber showcase event.
“We're going to [offer] education classes on barbering and finances, particularly financial literacy," said Holmes of his plans for Presidential in 2020.
The classes will focus on styles and offerings popular with African American and Latino men.
“I've always enjoyed cutting hair and wanted to have a shop that was different," said Holmes. Most barbershops offer haircuts and shaves, but we do a lot more. There are not a lot of barbershops in this area that do what we do."
Famous and FabulousLenon James cuts the hair of Troy Taylor at Pyramid Famous Cutz. (Cole Bradley)
Pyramid Famous Cutz
1370 Madison Avenue | (901) 278-1827
Tues through Fri 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Sat 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Pyramid Famous Cutz has been in Madison Heights for more than 25 years. It's a mixed-gender shop with barbering and salon services in one establish.
“We love this community and love this area,” said owner Lois Bryant. “Ever since we opened in 1992, giving back has been one of our focuses.”
Bryant is originally from Brinkley, Arkansas and always wanted to start her own business.
“I pick her brain all the time," said Tony Mckissick, master barber and Pyramid's manager, of Bryant's expertise. "We work well together and make this place a real laid back environment for our clients."
Mckissick said success comes from watch closely for hair trends and adapting to them. He said tapers and etched designs have increased in popularity, particularly in Madison Heights. He's also seen a resurgence of the pompadour and other styles from the 1950s, which he attributes to pop singers like Bruno Mars.
“The bald fade and the light fade are real popular with both the little boys and the men,” he said. “Women get the weave or braids ... box braids are a favorite. You can also braid weave into styles. There's a lot of different styles out there and the women mix it up."
Michelle Angel is a former client who moved from Memphis to Atlanta two years ago but was in town visiting and stopped by Pyramid.
“You better believe that if I still lived in Memphis, this would still be my salon," said Angle. "I am biracial but my hair is more on the Caucasian side. It's silky but still has the kinky roots and an unpredictable curl pattern. It's hard for me to manage. But they handle it with so much ease. They can handle anything.”
Bryant agrees that treating hair of any texture is a specialty of theirs.
“We always have a different variety of people coming in. You never know who might come through the door.”
Going Upscale(L to R) Upscale Kutz barbers Dennis Ross, Karlos Burt and Trell Turner cuts the hair of Bernard, Riko and Jaytin. The shop is located in a cluster of beauty businesses in Madison Heights. (Ziggy Mack)
1333 Madison Avenue | (901) 779-7460
Hours: Tues/Wed 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Thurs/Fri 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. | Sat 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Upscale Kutz opened in June 2018 and is already well-known for its diverse clientele. The shop's Facebook page shows men, women and children of all races and ages.
“We don't focus on a particular haircut or anything,” said owner Montrell "Trell" Turner. “We love what we do. Our focus is to bring all people into the barbershop regardless of your race, gender, sexuality or whatever.”
Turner is from North Memphis. He graduated from North Side High School in 1997 and is now a proud husband and father of three. He's has been cutting hair for 14 years and struggled to manifest his dream to own his own shop.
“I'd been trying to get a shop for the last five years,” said Turner “It's been a process to get this going.”
Since it opened, Upscale Kutz has tried to give back to the community. On August 4, the stylist gave free haircuts at the Back To School Bash at the Glennview Community Center, and Turner said senior citizens are always offered a discount.
The shop held a belated grand opening celebration in October 2018, which included food, music and a great turn-out. Turner received an event grant from the Memphis Medical District Collaborative for the occasion, and there was a ribbon cutting by Karl Dean, the former mayor of Nashville who was running for Tennessee governor at the time.
Turner says the location of his shop is perfect.
“We get a lot of clients in this location. This is a great area for business due to the traffic. With us being at an intersection, we see lots of people going back and forth.”