'Such an uphill battle' - Albuquerque Journal

‘Such an uphill battle’

Nina Farrow, seen here working on her daughter Torri Farrow’s hair, is one of two Black-owned business owners in Albuquerque being honored this weekend by the African American Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Even after 36 years of doing hair, Nina Farrow has no plans to retire.

“I’m gonna be behind this chair at 90,” Farrow said, although at 57, her 90s are a long way off. “I’ll be on the news: that 99-year-old woman behind the chair. … I’m gonna make it hard to beat my record.”

Farrow is one of two Black business owners being honored by the African American Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce this weekend at their inaugural fundraising concert, The Celebration of Black-Owned Business in New Mexico. This weekend the AAGACC is honoring two of the oldest known, continuously operated Black-owned businesses in the state: Nina Farrow Hair Studio, at 6300 San Mateo NE, and Mr. Powdrell’s BBQ, which has locations at 5209 Fourth NW and at 11301 Central NE.

“Black businesses have had such an uphill battle down through the years,” said Karla Causey, AAGACC president and CEO. “We started out where we were forced to create our own businesses, because of Jim Crow laws. … We weren’t allowed to eat in their restaurants, and we weren’t allowed to go to their salons. So we had to create our own.”

Causey said the chamber is working on creating a statewide registry of Black-owned businesses in the state. There are already over 600 businesses on the list, although Causey said the number is likely higher. The chamber will be visiting several cities, including Las Cruces and Hobbs, next year to add to the registry.

Although Farrow has owned her business since 1992, she’s not one to rest on her laurels.

“Do I feel accomplished? Yes,” Farrow said. “Am I done? No.”

Besides being a licensed barber and cosmetologist, Farrow has taught at A Better U Barber academy, workshops at the APS Career Enrichment Center and inner beauty conferences for the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs. She’s also organized a handful of hair shows. One of Farrow’s clients, who is now in her 90s, followed her from shop to shop for 35 years.

“It’s just one of those jobs – I don’t even call it a job,” Farrow said. “I don’t feel like I could do anything else. Or really, I don’t want to do anything else.”

Many of her clients are planning to attend the ceremony on Saturday.

“They’re just as excited as I am,” Farrow said. “They want best for me.”

They’ll join Farrow’s 80-year-old parents, who she said pushed her to success, and will also be in attendance.

“I feel accomplished,” Farrow said. “All my hard work and persistence – it really just hit me the other day.”

The other honoree, Mr. Powdrell’s BBQ, was opened by Pete and Catherine Powdrell in 1962.

Although the original founders have died, son Joe Powdrell, who operates the two barbecue shops in Albuquerque along with brother Mike Powdrell, will be present to accept the award.

In what Joe Powdrell calls pre-ketchup days, his grandfather Isaac Britt created a simply-named recipe: “sauce,” made out of raw tomatoes, onions and homemade vinegar and sugar. He cooked meat pit barbecue style with hickory wood. Britt’s recipe was later passed along to his grandson, Pete Powdrell.

Although the younger Powdrell said that pit BBQ is becoming “obsolete,” and despite rising wood costs, the barbecue restaurant continues to use the labor- and time-intensive process.

Nina Farrow, shown working on her daughter Torri Farrow’s hair. After 36 years of doing hair, Nina Farrow has no plans to retire. “Do I feel accomplished? Yes,” Farrow said. “Am I done? No.” (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“The commitment to honesty was more important,” Powdrell said.

He became an employee of the business in 1969, a recent graduate of University of New Mexico.

But Powdrell said he’d been involved in the business much earlier than that.

“If you were in the house, you’re involved in the business,” Powdrell said.

He left the business for a few years, then returned to New Mexico in 1974 a Vietnam War veteran and a father.

“Powdrell’s was growing all that time,” Powdrell said. “I kinda wanted to enter in and facilitate the expansion because we had a great business … Albuquerque was growing, we were growing with Albuquerque.”

Powdrell said that even more than Powdrell’s 60-year tenure, he’d like to see his parents be celebrated for their business savvy.

“They were good at business, they were good at employee treatment, maintaining morale,” Powdrell said.

The fundraising concert will feature a performance by Grammy-nominated husband-and-wife music duo, The Baylor Project. The concert will also honor two “unsung heroes” from Albuquerque’s Black community: Dr. Karissa Culbreath, medical director for infectious disease at TriCore, and Dr. Jeron Campbell, founder and principal of ACES Technical Charter School.

Two other businesses will be highlighted via video at the event: Trendz Beauty Supply and 9 Mile Tees, which both received awards from Comcast, including free iPads and advertising.

“Entrepreneurship has been something that has been prevalent in the Black community for years,” Causey said. “It’s something we had to do initially, and now we do it because it makes good business sense, and it also helps the community financially as well.”

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