This past weekend, a reception was held at the Elks Lodge in Riverside in honor of Willie F. Bartee, owner and operator of Bartee's Beauty Salon. Bartee closed the business of 61 years on April 30, 2007, closing a chapter of Black history in Riverside.
A crowd of 200 people gathered to celebrate and remember the many years and various experiences at Bartee's Beauty Salon. It is believed to have been the oldest Black owned business in Riverside that was still in existence at the time of its closing. Bartee's Beauty Salon was located on Eleventh Street in Riverside and operated at that same location the entire 61 years.
The celebration began with a welcome by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Susan Griggs. Susan and her sister Sharon reflected on how they, along with their mother Mattie Wilson and Susan's daughter Stacy Aubert, had all been clients of Bartee since Susan, Sharon and Stacy's childhood. They, along with their brother Greg, shared how Bartee had a positive impact on their lives over the years.
Susan asked for a show of hands from the women in the audience of how many had at least one time had their hair prepared by Bartee. Ninety-five percent of the women raised their hands.
Mrs. Mylie Davis, who early in her career as a beautician worked at Bartee's Beauty Salon, shared how she learned much about survival in the business from Bartee. Bartee's oldest and longest patronizing customer, Ellen Strickland was also in attendance.
Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzo Griffin were special guests. Griffin presented Bartee with a plaque on behalf of LaRAN Products, thanking him for his many years of service in hair care and naming him the Founding Father of the Black Hair Care Industry in the Inland Empire.
Dorella Anderson, Sue Strickland, Rose Mays and Jeanette Ward represented the Riverside African American Historical Society. They shared words of appreciation and fond memories of Bartee through the years.
Mr. and Mrs. Dell Roberts, longtime friends and chairpersons of the Riverside Black History Parade attended the celebration, Dell reflected on some recollections of times with Bartee over the years and the friendship between the two families.
Musical selections were rendered by Perry, Alice Alexander and the Hope Inspirators.
Sanci Patterson and LaRose Edwards presented a verbal history of Bartee and the Beauty Salon along with a powerpoint presentation entitled "Combing through memories down to the last curl." This included pictures of Bartee, his family and customers as far back as the 1930's.
During the evening, there was much speculation as to whether Bartee is now or will ever truly retire but he has slowed his pace. With the closing of the shop, he has more free time to tend his garden, read and relax in his backyard.
The evening closed with Bartee thanking his family, friends and customers for their continued support enabling him to remain in business culminating in 61 successful years of service in the community.