Wig shop owner ready to dispense hope after fight to open shop in White Marsh

Neighbors opposed store in residential area

May 10, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The stained-glass angel on a window above the door at Charlotte's Hair Line seems more befitting a church than a wig shop -- but Charlotte Turner says she wouldn't be in business without her.

After decades of selling wigs in Essex, Turner opened Wednesday in a new building in White Marsh, offering hairpieces to cancer patients and others suffering hair loss.

While divine intervention might or might not have played a role in helping Turner overcome community opposition to open her shop, Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina certainly did.

In 1996, the Perry Hall Democrat put aside residents' worries about building the shop in a residential area and supported changing the zoning on the 1-acre property from residential to commercial.

"We testified vigorously against it," said David Marks, president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. "We still think it sets a bad precedent."

Gardina, however, said he weighed several factors, including the type of business, the design of the building and the fact that the land had been in Turner's family for generations. In the end, he agreed to the shop, which is the only commercial structure on Honeygo Boulevard north of Silver Spring Road.

"It was a difficult decision. I didn't want to have commercial encroachment up Honeygo Boulevard," Gardina said.

Turner is convinced everything that has happened to her is the result of a divine plan.

Thirty-two years ago, she was laid off from Martin Marietta and was casting about for a way to make money. A licensed beautician since she was 19, she tried selling wigs at hostess parties.

"They looked like little rats," she said of her offerings.

Turner took a refresher beautician course and enlisted the help of two hairstylists. Within a few months, wig sales were going so well that she opened a shop.

Wig buyers then usually wanted to change their appearance. The fad was so popular that filling stations and banks gave hairpieces away.

But Turner wanted to make sense of a vision she had to do more. "All I wanted to do was heal," she said. "Little did I know, my way of healing would be through wigs."

She had experimented with a number of healing methods -- laying on of hands, light therapy and thinking positive thoughts. Neither she nor her clients found much satisfaction in those methods.

But then, Turner noticed that an increasing number of her customers were cancer patients who had lost their hair because of chemotherapy. In her store she had the treatment to make them feel better -- more than 1,000 wigs to help restore their appearance.

Now more than half of her clients seek wigs because of medically related hair loss. Many are referred to her through hospitals and support groups.

Looking to expand the business and offer longer hours, Turner decided to move from Country Ridge Shopping Center in Essex where she had operated for 27 years.

The acre on Honeygo Boulevard, which had been in her family for decades, was easily accessible, yet tranquil in its wooded setting. It took five years of lobbying, but her new shop is open.

The brick, one-story building resembles a doctor's office more than a wig shop. Inside are salons for men and women designed to ensure privacy. On display are racks of wigs ranging in price from $169 to $1,000.

Turner plans to employ 10 workers and add computer imaging next year to help her clients choose the best wigs for them.

"A lot of people are very sick, but when they look good, we heal their self-esteem," she said. "A lot of healing will go on here."

Pub Date: 5/10/99

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