In 2005, Luz Arteaga Pray took over the Hairspray Salon on Wickenden Street where she had worked for a decade, buying both the business and the building it was located in.
It was a huge step for the native of Medellin, Colombia, who grew up in Cumberland. When asked if she was prepared for the added burdens she was taking on, her frank answer was: “God, no!”
However, she added, “I haven’t regretted a day.”
She has transformed what was a typical Providence hair salon into a full-service unisex spa and, almost as an afterthought, combined the hairdressing business with what might seem an incongruous partner: an art gallery featuring the work of local artists. “I wish I could say that this is exactly how I saw it all and how I planned it,” Pray told Providence Business News. “But the truth is, these things just happened.”
She came to this country as a child when her father relocated the now-defunct factory he helped manage from South America to the Blackstone Valley. He chose to settle his family in suburban Cumberland, where back in the 1970s, few Latinos resided. “The English language is very difficult to learn,” she said.
After graduating from Cumberland High School and attending hairdressing school, Pray began work as a hair stylist. She got married, had four children and moved with her young family to a farm in Rehoboth, where they still reside.
Then the economy started to plummet.
You can see the plunge reflected on Wickenden Street, whose identity is shifting, Pray said. Upscale art galleries and antique stores have given way to ethnic eateries and trendy trinket shops geared to college students.