Hair stylist working to improve image of Rockford’s west side

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Antoinette Harris called Chicago her home before making her way to Rockford in 2001.

She has spent most of her life styling hair, going where ever she needed to go to do so.

“I’ve always worked in different places. The last 10 years or so, I’ve been at home working,” Harris said.

Recently, Harris took on a project to give herself a change of scenery.

She is in the process of renovating a building on Auburn Street as a new location for her business.

Before Harris and her team got to work, the spot was just an empty space for people to walk past.

“It was very close to being condemned. Bullet holes in the walls from the inside,” Harris said.

“We put our heads together, rolled up our sleeves and put the walls back together literally.”

The inside of the building was only half the battle, with Harris describing the walk way outside the entrance as a “mile of trash.”

“I had to personally clean out this area and now it hardly gets trash.”

Another improvement has been the attitude towards the homeless and drifters that pass by the store.

“An older man that looked down on his luck came by and he asked if I had $3. I asked him if he would feel better working for it and he said yes. So I said ‘well here’s a broom and let me know when you’re done.'”

“He did so much work that $3 that I gave him $6. Now when he walks by, he waves when he looks through our windows because of the relationship and the rapport I built with him.”

With some new windows, a little bit of clean up and a freshly painted sign out front, Who’s Next? Salon was open for business.

For Harris, Who’s Next? isn’t really a question. It’s an answer for other things she’s asking the community.

“Why do people always run from the west side? Why not be that part of the community?”

“I specifically chose the west side for the walkers, for the less fortunate, for the community.”

It’s Harris’ passion and commitment helping her build strong bonds with her clients to keep them coming back.

Crystal Hicks met Harris shortly after she moved here and became one of her clients..

She’s known her for 17 years and talks about Harris like a proud mother describing the success of her daughter.

“She took such pride in what she did. It was a passion. She believes in beautifying people and letting her love flow through her work,” Hicks said.

Harris has moved away from the stateline multiple times, but has always found her way back to Rockford.

“Her heart is in the heart of Rockford. In the west side of Rockford. That’s her purpose,” Hicks said.

The work Harris is doing has even been recognized by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, as she works on the west side “on purpose” and hopes others will follow suit.

“It’s the birthing of something great. It’s just the beginning. Just the beginning,” Harris said.

Who’s Next? is located at 3419 Auburn St next to AutoZone.

Harris hopes to start bringing other events to Who Next? soon, including a women’s self defense class.

INSPIRING-815-ANTOINETTE-HARRIS
Evan Leake

Evan Leake

Multi-Media Journalist

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