By Greg Goldfarb
Not far from the hustle-and-bustle of Lynnhaven Parkway, David Dunbar and Melanie Mays-Ford chat quietly together inside The Makeover Lounge.
Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., the retired American Funds Group customer service agent has lived in the Resort City for 18 years and made many friends along the way, including Dunbar, who opened his new hair and beauty salon in July 2010.
“He’s a wonderful barber and a wonderful friend who’s been cutting my hair for the last 15 years,” said Mays-Ford, who lives in Virginia Beach’s West Neck section. “He’s very professional, trustworthy and he’s a Christian.”
A 1993 Bayside High School graduate and the oldest of four children, Dunbar, 35, is the son of Virginia Beach residents David Dunbar Sr., and Regina Morgan. He attended Gateway Christian School grades K-9; and has a brother, Tim; and two sisters, Adrienne and Erica – all Virginia Beach residents. Married for 10 years to his wife, LaToya, they live in Landstown and have four children: David III, 3; Promise, 2; Jarvis, 14, a freshman at First Colonial High School; and Sade, 17, a senior at Landstown High School. They attend Dominion Christian Center in Virginia Beach.
Growing up in the city’s Summerwind neighborhood, Dunbar played high school football at Bayside and worked at several fast food and restaurant jobs early in life, before settling into a career as a hair stylist in 1995, entering a cosmetology apprentice school. He has also attended Tidewater Community College and Bryant & Stratton College, studying Business Administration.
“During the apprenticeship, they teach you how to cut straight hair,” said Dunbar. “Other than African American, that’s the type of hair that most people have. But no matter what kind of hair you have, if you have hair, I can take care of you, absolutely.”
Friend wanted Vanilla Ice haircut
Dunbar was 13 when he cut his first head of hair; it was that of a Caucasian friend, sporting a short blonde mane.
“I had never cut anyone’s hair before; I don’t know why I thought I could do it, other than it was a gift from God,” he said. “This white guy in the neighborhood – a friend of mine – asked me to cut his hair; it was back in the 1980s and he liked the hair style of the musician Vanilla Ice; he wanted me to cut lines, zigzags, shapes, lightning bolts – what ever I wanted to. When I finished, he loved it.”
Following his graduation from apprentice school, Dunbar worked at some Norfolk barber shops, including the now-closed Andy’s barber shop at the corner of Hampton Boulevard and 38th Street. He worked for three years at Hair Dimensions in Norfolk’s Military Crossing shopping center; and from 2004 to 2010 for a barber in Chesapeake’s Greenbrier business district.
In July of 2010, he opened his first business: The Makeover Lounge, on Lynnhaven Parkway, in the Lynnway Place shopping center, near the intersection of Lynnhaven and Holland Road. He invested about $10,000 opening the 1,100 square-foot salon, half of which he rents to another stylist. He plans to expand, maybe to Chesapeake, Hampton, North Carolina and Georgia within a few years. So far, he’s happy with the way his business is working out now.
“Business has been good,” he said, putting his regular customer base at over 100 people. “I don’t really go by what people say about the economy; basically, I put my faith in God and He provides.”
Even though Dunbar is blessed with God-given talent, he says he’s fortunate to be able to do the kind of work he loves. When he looks at each person’s head of hair, he said, he feels spiritually inspired.
“It’s hard to explain, but I do have sort of a vision of what I’m going to do – a vision that only I can see. The customers trust me to do what I see and it usually works out well.”
Diversity’s Good For Business
Dunbar credits a friend, Andrea Josephs, a local businesswoman, with helping him start his business; and with finding his salon’s location, which rests among many local multicultural communities, drawing customers of various cultural heritages.
“I was really tired of the ‘salon-business-as-usual,’ ” he said. “A lot of times, it’s almost like church – the white people go to the white barber, the Hispanics go to the Hispanic barber, the African Americans go the black barber. I feel like you should be able to get your hair done and not be limited; the salons should be more diverse.”
There are hundreds, if not thousands of salons in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads, Dunbar said, making it difficult for one to distinguish itself over another.
“There must be 20 salons within two or three blocks of here,” he said. “Not only do I try to work with all people, but my shop also has a lot of atmosphere and ambiance. Everyone’s welcome to stop by to see me.”
The Makeover Lounge, 1060 Lynnhaven Parkway in the Lynnway Place shopping center, Suite 108, is open from 10 a.m., to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 7 a.m., to 5 p.m., Saturdays; closed Sunday. Reach David Dunbar at (757) 553-8221. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him on Facebook.