Naye African Braiding
Robbery at Naye African Braiding
Crime in New York and also in the77th precinct of Crown Heights is down according to police statistics. In all categories the number of reported incidents has declined with the exception of rape. The police believe that in the new atmosphere created by the Me Too movement, the rape statistic actually reflects increased reporting, but not an increase in the number of rapes. Citywide in 2018 rape reports were up 22%. At the same time homicides were down and shootings were down; crime overall has declined to levels comparable to those in the 1950's, one of the safest times the city's history.
Nevertheless crime still does happen, and we report here on an incident at Naye African Braiding on Nostrand Avenue near Park Place. Around 3pm on Friday, January 4th a young Black man entered the store. Rosa, the owner, was there as well as six or seven employees and customers. The man came into the store and looked around; then he returned to to the front door and locked it. He came back into the store with a gun in his hand and simply said, “Money.” He took money from several customers and employees, netting about $120. However, he did not think to get the store receipts. After collecting the money he told everyone to go into the restroom in the back of the store. Once there, one of the customers called 911 and told what had happened. With the store cleared of people, the robber fled. The police arrived soon after. The store camera had recorded what happened, and the police downloaded a picture of the man. Soon after a crew from Channel 11 arrived and filmed a reenactment of the crime. There was coverage on Channel 11 and also Channel 12, the all Brooklyn News station.
An interview with Rosa and several employees and customers present at the time revealed even more. They said the man was dirty and disheveled and they suspect he may have been a drug addict. The contact person with the police of the 77th Precinct is Alicia Frisch of Neighborhood Coordination. She believes the man may be desperate for money to buy drugs and he may commit further robberies, making it ever more likely he will be caught. In the meantime, Rosa keeps the front door of Naye's locked at certain hours, so that customers must ask for admittance and she can check out who wants to enter. The crime has made everyone more cautious, but Rosa has also received a lot of support from the community. Everyone in the neighborhood is standing by her.
At 736 Nostrand Avenue near Park Place stands a narrow store called Naye African Braiding. I became aware of it when Laci Chisholm, the owner of Fit4Dance told me that the owner Rosa is the best for braiding. Later I met a young girl who had just had her hair done there. A small crowd of people, including her mother, and Maxine from next door, gathered outside the store and agreed the braids looked great. However, it was not unit November 30th that I sat down with Rosa to find out more about her and her store.
First of all, her name is not Naye. That was the name of the store when Rosa brought it and she did not want to lose customers who liked the place. The purchase took place in October of 1998, twenty years ago. Rosa grew up in Cameroon with seven siblings. Her eventual husband was an entrepreneur, always traveling and looking for opportunities. He took her to Gabon and then convinced her to come to the United States. She arrived in May of 1994 with little idea what to do. She had never done braiding but she became an apprentice in a braiding store, learned the trade, studied hard, and passed the test to get a certificate. Rosa says she always arrived early, stayed late, absorbed everything she could, and worked very hard. Her efforts paid off; after four years she managed to get her own place.
There are quite a few other braiding places north and south of Rosa on Nostrand. I asked if the competition is difficult. Rosa laughed; she told me that most of the other businesses are owned by people who worked for her, and she was glad to help them get started. There is no competition but rather a group of people who support each other, all of them from Africa. Rosa gets young clients, and they always come in asking for the latest fashion. This makes her laugh because when they describe what they want, she can always find it in the old books she has under a different name. Braiding goes in cycles according to Rosa, and she has yet to find a style that is totally new.
Naye is an informal business. Rosa is never quite sure which of her braiders will show up or which customers. So she takes a laissez-faire approach, matching customers and braiders as best she can. The majority of her customers are women, but the last two times I was at the shop, there was a man there getting braids. It is a long process, forty-five minutes to several hours, and it can be intimate. For some reason one can tell things to the person working on your hair that would be hard to tell anyone else. Given the time and effort involved, Rosa's prices are reasonable – something like $55 to $100 depending on the procedure. The customers come from everywhere – Africa, the Caribbean and America, they are Black, Hispanic and there are some whites. They practice every religion. Rosa herself is Catholic but she prefers to go to the Pentecostal Temple of Redemption on Pacific Street and Third Avenue, which is open 24/7. She can go there as needed to pray, to light candles, and to meditate.
Rosa's husband has continued to travel; he now spends much of his time in Senegal. Rosa stays put; she lives nearby on St. Marks. The couple have had two boys who are grown up, but one would have to say that the atmosphere at Naye is very much like that of a family – there are jokes, casual talk in several different languages, and mutual support. And everyone comes away looking better and that means feeling better as well.