Paris McKenzie didn’t plan to become the youngest-ever Black owner of a beauty-supply store. Her plan, actually, has always been to become an orthopedic pediatric surgeon: The 16-year-old attends the High School for Health Professions & Human Services and takes sociology classes at Hunter College on the side. “Having my own store wasn’t ever a goal I had on my list,” she says. “It was really like the opportunity was presented to me, and I knew I could do it.”
The opportunity came from her mother, Senica Thompson, who owns both Paris Runway Boutique and Paris Hair Studio, which sit across the street from each other on a stretch of Church Avenue filled with Caribbean restaurants, storefront churches, and fish markets. Paris was finishing up a client’s nails at the salon when her mother came in with news that the owners of the beauty-supply store down the block were planning on vacating their building and asked if she was interested in renting the space. Paris said yes straightaway. Not only had she grown up watching her mother run two businesses but she had spent the past several years working at both of them. She had saved money ringing up customers at the boutique and installing and coloring wigs at the salon — earning enough to cover the first month’s rent on the space ($2,500 a month) and stock the store.