Business and beauty: Beloved Abilene entrepreneur passes away at 83
ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Chong Cha Ivester of Abilene passed away June 16, 2023, at the age of 83. The Korean Immigrant and self-made entrepreneur is remembered best for opening the first African American Hair care and style shop in the early 80s, ‘Oriental Afro Beauty Supply.’ Her other business, ‘Lucky Beauty Supply,’ is now run by her son Loyd Ivester.
“It’s been about two or three weeks, it’s been hard adjusting. And I still find myself talking to her,” Ivester said.
‘Mrs. Chong’ as most knew her, immigrated to Abilene from Korea in the mid-70s after meeting her husband overseas during the Korean War. Her son Ivester said it was the difficult life she lead at home that pushed her to be the strong-willed woman she was.
“She was one of those people that when she makes her mind up, you can’t stop her,” Ivester said.
When she first moved to the States, Ivester shared that she made it a goal to get her citizenship and learn English as quickly as she could. She accomplished both goals in just six months.
Her first job in the States was at Timex, a watch company in Abilene, but she later worked and retired at the Abilene State Supported Living Center. Ivester said she went on to follow her dream of opening a store first opening a Korean food store that later became Oriental Afro Beauty Supply on North Mockingbird.
“There was a buzz about the Afro-American hair business starting to take off, and she was one of the first ones to start here in Abilene,” Said Ivester.
If you ask her customers, they’ll tell you she ran her business more like a family or a community of friends. Mrs. Chong got to know her regulars and then served their families as they grew into their own.
“Pretty much my mom went in the store all the time. So she watched me grow up,” said a Friend and Employee of Chong, Peezy Peoples.
Peoples is a salesman and stylist at both supply locations. He shared that Mrs. Chong was like a mentor to him and even though she didn’t use the products herself, she always made a point to listen to her customers to better understand what they needed out of her stores.
“It’s a business within itself when it comes to black hair. You gotta go look for this and find that. It’s not something that you can go to Walmart and get everything you need,” Peoples said.
Growing up in the store, Peoples developed a love for the craft and Mrs. Chong was happy to show him the right way to do things.
“Whenever she noticed that I was gonna be doing hair and stuff she made sure I came in, I learned the business…It’s like family. Whenever you come around, we’re all family. Everybody knows Loyd, everybody knows Mrs. Chong,” Peoples shared.
Now that she has passed, those little parts of herself she invested in the community are showing up in spades to be there for her son just as they were for her.
“Just the way customers come in and give me encouragement. I don’t think I could fail,” Ivester said.
Both Lucky Beauty Supply and Oriental Afro Beauty are still in business in Abilene and the community showing up to leave flowers on the doorstep and share kind words with Ivester when they can.