When Sam Roni moved to Atlanta from Indonesia in 2000, he had $300 to his name, didn’t speak English, and took a job washing dishes.
What a difference 20 years makes.
Now the owner of two hair salons on the Cheshire Bridge corridor — Sam’s Hair Salon and 2Qute Salon — reflects on his two-decade journey in Atlanta, getting by with help from good Samaritans, and persevering through challenges like the coronavirus shutdowns.
As a dishwasher at a Mableton restaurant, Sam lived with the owner’s family and cut their children’s hair for free with no prior training.
“They liked my haircuts,” Sam says. “I liked it, even if it was free. I was just happy that I could help others, and I will never forget that.”
After meeting his partner Tony, the couple scraped together funds to put Sam through cosmetology school. The school let them pay as they could because they appreciated Sam’s “don’t quit attitude,” he says. Another friend helped him pay for state board testing.
After six years cutting hair for other places, Sam’s Hair Salon opened at the corner of Cheshire Bridge and Faulkner roads in 2009.
“All of my clients made it happen,” Sam says. “Without support from my clients, I don’t think we could have survived for almost 11 years now.”
In 2019, Sam oversaw a top-to-bottom renovation of a second space, transforming it into a bright, sleek, modern salon. 2Qute opened in September.
“Every time people come, their first expression is ‘Wow, this place is so clean and so nice and … so cute!’” Sam glows.
Business was booming, until coronavirus.
“We totally understood [the closure of businesses], but at the same time it hurt so bad. It had cost a lot of money to renovate the salon,” Sam says. “But hey, the safety of our clients and employees is more important, and it gave us more time to think how to keep people safe.”
The salon went beyond Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines and state requirements to implement safety protocols for staff and clients. He says they’re more than ready to welcome back men and women for full-service cut, color, Keratin and Brazilian smoothing treatments.
For Sam, staying the course during the pandemic is only the latest in a long line of challenges he has overcome.
“From all my stories, I want everyone to know that if I can do it, you can do it too,” he says. “Maybe we fall sometimes, but we can stand up again. Learn from it and do better.”
“I am so proud to be part of the LGBTQ Atlanta,” he adds. “Let’s keep our community stronger by supporting each other, and no one can make us separate.”
2Qute is at 1927 Cheshire Bridge Road NE. Call 404-334-2936 or visit 2quitehairsalonatlanta.com. Sam’s Hair Salon is at 2000 Cheshire Bridge Road NE. Call 404-417-9887 or visit samshairsalonatlanta.com.
This interview originally appeared in Q Atlus magazine. Read the full issue here:
Pick up each new edition of Q ATLus at LGBTQ and allied venues around Atlanta.