Thank You, Jackson | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Thank You, Jackson

I've been burning the candle at both ends as of late, and I find myself kneading my furrowed brow or asking my husband to be patient with me more often than not. Between dashing back and forth between the salon and barber shop, helping with the "If You're Buying" sticker campaign, keeping up with LGBT activists around Mississippi and helping Robbie Fisher pull together a grassroots marketing plan for her short documentary about Justin and me, "A Mississippi Love Story," there are moments when I'm sure one, if not all, of these is getting the short end of the stick.

This morning, as I struggled yet again to recall the password for one of the social-media accounts for the documentary, I was struck dumb by the realization that I moved back to Jackson 10 years ago this month.

Back then, before Ryan Seacrest had unleashed the unholy terror that is the Kardashians and nobody knew what a "Real Housewife" was, Justin agreed to pack up our things and follow me back to Jackson. In the first two years, we experienced were plenty of highs and lows: nights out on the town rubbing elbows with potential clients and making memories with friends, old and new, juxtaposed with arguments over finances, W's re-election and Hurricane Katrina. In those days, we thought little of opening our own business, except to talk about the concept and our shared belief that it could only be located in Fondren.

I'd been carrying around an article from Vogue since hair school that talked about the growing trend of boutique salons catering to a small clientele, offering specialized services and eschewing the swagger of the multi-location mega-salon. In '07 we opened what we billed as "a swanky little salon with a talented staff." The idea was to keep William Wallace small and personal, upscale in execution, but approachable and comfortable for anyone. For seven years, and through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, we've cared for everyone from single moms on a budget to folks with more money than the Pope.

But here's the thing: It would never have happened were it not for the support of local business owners and their staffs in and around Fondren.

Before our sign went up, or even the first coat of paint, Nancy Price called to offer help in any way she could. Jeff Good was busy opening Sal & Mookie's, but he made a point to come by almost daily. Marcy Nessel would call out as she whizzed by on her bike, as would Janis Boersma speed-walking in her hot pants. The "just let me know if there's anything I can do" phone calls were too many to count.

We spent many a late night sanding drywall and carrying trash and debris to the dumpster. Day after day, we faced a mind-numbing barrage of decisions about everything from plumbing and electrical issues to licenses, permits, and various business and tax accounts. The physical toll was the worst. Every morning, I felt new aches and pains, not to mention the mystery creaks and pops of my weary bones.

One evening, after a full day of laboring on our almost-finished space, I propped my broom against the wall and took a nap on a stack of drywall—flat on my back and unashamed. At the time, we were taking a gamble that Jackson would support a salon owned by an openly gay couple, and when we opened the doors, the good folks of the metro area did me proud.

As I look back on the evolution of the "If You're Buying" sticker campaign, what surprises me most isn't that Mississippi business owners might want a sticker; rather, it's business folks like John Currence and Mike Upton who not only rushed to get their hands on a little blue sticker, but are quite vocal about it. More than once, I've seen them take opponents to task for failing to see the absurdity of SB 2681 and the reasons it came about.

Witnessing the Mississippi business community coming together to speak out against discrimination of any kind through the lens of being a business owner in the LGBTQ community makes it all the more powerful to me. We are all a part of one community that depends on support from everyone, not just a select few or those exactly like us.

So, to Jackson, Miss., I offer my humble thanks. Whether you know it or not, or even think it matters, there are others who take heart in seeing a business owned by an openly gay couple make it year after year. And to my husband, Justin, thank you for coming home with me. You make Jackson a better place to be.

See the premier of "A Mississippi Love Story" Friday, June 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Admission is free.

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