June 19, 2021

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Bessie E. Hundley, salon owner, travel agent and day care operator, dies at 99 | Richmond Free Press

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Frustrated by low wages, Bessie Mercell Eddleton Hundley went into business for herself. For nearly...

Frustrated by low wages, Bessie Mercell Eddleton Hundley went into business for herself.

For nearly 60 years, Mrs. Hundley owned and operated a series of successful hair salons in the Richmond area, most notably the Golden Comb Salon in Henrico County. The Richmond native also owned and operated a day care for eight years and a travel business for 36 years.

Mrs. Hundley, who closed all of her businesses in 2016 as her health began to fail, died Wednesday, May 5, 2021. She was 99.

Family and friends will celebrate Mrs. Hundley’s life with a graveside service 11 a.m. Friday, May 14, at Oakwood Cemetery

in North Side. Prior to the service, Scott’s Funeral Home will host a viewing 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13, at 115 E. Brookland Park Blvd.

Her daughter, Bernice E. Travers, a business consultant and real estate investor, never forgot her mother’s response to the question of why she became an entrepreneur.

“I was attending ‘old’ Arm- strong High School,” Ms. Travers recalled her mother saying, “and each day after school, I went to work at St. Philip’s Hospital earning $16.10 a month. I bought a reversible raincoat, and it took me 12 months to get it out of layaway. It was at this early age I knew I wanted to own my own business.”

Before she opened her first salon, though, Mrs. Hundley spent 17 years learning the business while she raised her children.

After graduating from high school, she saw an opportunity in cosmetology. She learned how to style hair from a cousin who graduated from a Philadelphia school, then rode the bus to customers’ homes to do their hair, Ms. Travers said.

She later joined the staff at Arnello’s Beauty Shop on Clay Street in Jackson Ward and then relocated to David Lea’s shop on Hopkins Road in South Side, Ms. Travers said.

To make extra money and build a customer base, Mrs. Hundley also styled hair at her home on nights and weekends while also taking courses at the Smith-Madden Business School to prepare herself for entrepreneurship.

By the time she was 35, she felt ready. In 1957, she opened her first salon, Bessie’s House of Beauty, in the 800 block of North 31st Street in Church Hill, her daughter said.

Twelve years later, she sold that business and relocated her salon to a building she purchased at 3084 Meadowbridge Road in the city’s North Side.

In 1989, at age 68, she retired as a stylist and rented the building to another cosmetologist. She then opened the Golden Comb Salon in the Oak Hill Plaza Shopping Center on Mechanicsville Turnpike in Henrico County where she rented chairs and managed the operation.

Starting out, Ms. Travers said her mother recruited stylists who were laid off after Thalhimer’s Department Store closed its Westmoreland Avenue store. She said her mother ran the Golden Comb for 27 years.

“The Golden Comb was her signature business,” Ms. Travers said, “and became well known because of its stylists, professional management and customer service.”

As the face of the shop, she dressed well, Ms. Travers said. “Everything must match or complement.”

She also set strict policies for her shop, her daughter said: “No food, no drinks, no profanity and no socializing” by people just dropping in to chat. Her mother also required customers to make appointments. The shop always had a strong flow of customers who could expect to leave well-coiffed, Ms. Travers said.

Mrs. Hundley also had two other businesses, her daughter said.

From 1972 to 1980, Ms. Hundley also ran Toddlers Creative Day Care Center on First Avenue in Highland Park with an enrollment of more than 50 children.

After closing that operation, she started Leisure Tours Travel Agency at 108 W. Brookland Park Blvd., which she operated for 36 years from the storefront and later from her home, Ms. Travers said.

To relax, Mrs. Hundley read, traveled and played cards with the Triangle Pinochle Club, The Pinochle Pals and the Double Deckers Club, Ms. Travers said.

Mrs. Hundley also was an active member of Cedar Street Baptist Church of God, where she served on the Usher Board and was a member of the Finance Committee and the Trustee Board for 20 years.

In 2009, Mrs. Hundley switched her membership to First Baptist Church of South Richmond and was active in its Joy Ministry until her health began failing.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include her son, Linwood Eddleton Sr., a grandson, three great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.