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Waterford - It was a lifetime ago when Jackie Hernandez first envisioned her beauty supply store.
It was the 1980s and the cosmetologist was operating her salon in Bridgeport and dreamed about expanding to include a beauty supplies business as a sideline.
But life intervened.
"Things happened. I was going through trials and tribulations in life," said Hernandez, who now lives in Groton and is assistant manager of the Wal-Mart there.
Hernandez got divorced and closed her salon but never stopped thinking about the beauty supplies business.
"It always stayed in my heart. It was a passion I had," she said, explaining that she saved for 17 years to make her dream a reality.
Last July, Hernandez opened her family-operated Ebony & Ivory on the upper level of the Crystal Mall near the entrance to JC Penney.
The shop, which caters to all ages and ethnicities, specializes in wigs, braiding and weaving hair, hair care products, makeup, jewelry and more.
"It's a kick back to the salon that I once operated," said Hernandez, relating how her dream never died and how she finally made it a reality.
God, she said, led her to the Crystal Mall.
"I'm a faith-based Christian, I take my direction from God, and God wanted me to be in the mall," she said, explaining that a mall attracts all kinds of people, exactly the customer base she wants to serve.
"Yes, I'm an African-American woman, but I cater to all," she said.
Her two daughters and other relatives help to staff the shop, which includes a large display of wigs, weaves and braids, jewelry, and nail polish.
"A lot of people wear wigs now, all kinds of people - even people with healthy hair," said daughter Shalonda Craddock, who Hernandez said knows as much if not more than she does about the products they carry.
Cancer patients shop for wigs, but so do people who simply want to change their appearance, Craddock said.
Some of Ebony & Ivory's wigs are synthetic and some human hair.
There are also options for hair braids that can be sewn in or clipped on, including shades of purple, red, and other bright colors.
Hair care products include gels, brushes, combs, curling irons, clippers and permanents, as well as home and salon products.
If it goes on the head, Ebony & Ivory most likely carries it. And soon, Hernandez said, they will include men's wigs in their line, too.
Some customers have found the shop while at the mall on another errand, and others have learned about it by word of mouth.
"We are seeing an increase (in business), and different faces," Hernandez said. "And people who come are satisfied, not just with the product, but because we give it the personal touch."
WHAT: Ebony & Ivory
WHO: Owner Jackie Hernandez
WHERE: Crystal Mall, upper level near JC Penney
Employees: Just a handful, and they're all relatives
Phone: (860) 444-8780