According to 2010 Census, the population of Detroit is about 700,000 and 90% of it is African Americans. Many people talk that the city is most segregated in US. However it is a good business opportunity for many beauty supply store owners in the region.
“I see it as ‘Concentration’ rather than ‘Segregation’, and it is a good business opportunity”, said Chae-Hak Om, the owner of Han Beauty Supply in Metro Detroit. Beauty supply items like human hair, wigs and cosmetics are essential products for African Americans. “Surrounded by over 600,000 customers is a good thing, isn’t it”, he added.
He has run the store for 18 years and became one of the best selling stores in the state. Beauty supply market is dominated by Korean Americans. There are about 100 beauty supply stores owned by Koreans in Metro Detroit and about 150 in Michigan. Almost 95% is owned by Korean Americans because beauty supply industry was originated by Koreans 30 years ago. They manufacture items at factories in Korea and China and import them into US.
In 1987, Mr. Om moved into Michigan from Indianapolis, where he ran a restaurant for a year. It was his first business after he immigrated from Korea, but it didn’t go well. Michigan was his second destination. He and his wife worked hard in a flea market for six years. They were thrifty in spending and saved enough to start their own business in 1993.
Han Beauty Supply is where the couple spent days and nights for last 18 years. “Looking back, it was not an easy time, especially since 2008 when auto industry in Detroit was beginning to collapse. Like every other businesses, beauty supply business is heavily related to auto industry where our customer make money to spend”, he recollected.
Spending of Detroiters is down as the cost of material to make human wig is sharply risen. To make it worse, the Detroit market is saturated. “Too much competition among Korean stores made slim profits. Cost on every products is higher than before but the price is locked down”, he added. Public safety is another issue for most owners. Burglary and midnight break-ins are not surprising news anymore to the owners.
To overcome local downfall of buying power, Mr. Om is using internet technology to reach out to customers in other cities. He set up an internet site to display his products. His sales gradually increase every month. Now his customers are everywhere in US.
He is also planning to renovate his store. He changes interior of the store continuously to make better shopping conditions. He would like to set up a hair salon inside of the store to provide one-stop shopping to his customers.
He pays more attention to his customers. Most significant complaints by the customers are about refund and exchange. It is hard for him to exchange or accept the return of the products when they are either open or used. Mr. Om could argue with his customers all day long but instead, he listens what customers want. When it is reasonable, he makes a decision on customer’s side.
That’s why 40% of his customers is long time friends. “I have been fortunate to be in good neighbors. They are all like my family members”, Mr. Om said. “Customer satisfaction is most important for us. We want them to come back”, he added.
Mr. Om is a community leader who participates many volunteering activities. He was former president of Michigan Korean Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has managed 26th annual Korean American Share Day event, where it donates one thousand frozen turkeys to needy Detroiters around Thanksgiving Day.
“It is time to give thanks to police officers who protect our properties and lives. I’ve grown with Detroit and I am very thankful to African American customers in Detroit and I know I am not the only one who appreciates”, he keeps dreaming in Detroit.
Han Beauty Supply
14066 Telegraph Rd. Redford, MI 48239
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