A spit-curl’s distance from the train station in downtown South Orange, Lucky 7 Expressions Hair Studio is the kind of place often depicted in movies, or old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. It is a barber shop, specifically an African-American one. But Lucky 7 is also a social club, meeting spot, community gathering place, and a testament to the indelible pull of human connection.
The bright and spacious salon, which opened nearly two years ago on a well-trafficked section of South Orange Avenue, is always a beehive of activity. When most other hair salons have shuttered their doors for the day, Lucky 7 is just getting its groove on. Open from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, the studio sees a surge in business after dusk.
Recently, I hung out for a spell with owner Douglas Thompson, whose nom de plume is “Fresh,” and stylists Sweat, Brownin’, and Garvey. “We nickname it out here,” said Fresh, who’s been cutting heads for fifteen years.
On a busy Friday or Saturday, the salon will service around 100 customers. “We do a lot of fades, tapers, baldies and Afros,” said Fresh. Brownin’ said a popular service for the ladies was the Doobie, which involves the hair being set in rollers, wrapped and brushed. The desired result, I think, is straighter locks.
Kids are welcome in the salon, and there were several there when I stopped by (including my own two, who made themselves comfortable on the cushy leather banquette in the middle of the shop.) The people watching, both inside the salon and of the street life just outside, is premium. I got a little mesmerized watching Garvey at work. Fresh called him “the master barber. I’ve never seen somebody cut so many heads so fast. He’s a monster!”
The recent New Year’s Eve holiday was a “crazy” night for the Lucky 7 crew. Meanwhile, on a late Thursday afternoon, with the sky darkening outside the plate glass window and the evening rush still a while away, Lucky 7 felt warm, friendly and familiar. There was no better place to be.