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Get to know Admirations Hair It Iz (and South Street)

You’ll find Admirations Hair It Iz at 1733 South Street. Phone is (215) 564-2929.


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Big Rube’s Philly: Deborah Mayfield of Admirations Hair It Iz

The chef and photographer pays a visit to a longtime friend, a salon owner reestablishing South Street as a Black mecca — one woman at a time

Big Rube’s Philly: Deborah Mayfield of Admirations Hair It Iz

The chef and photographer pays a visit to a longtime friend, a salon owner reestablishing South Street as a Black mecca — one woman at a time

Salon owner Deborah Mayfield is my muse this Women’s History Month. She owns Admirations Hair It Iz, located at 17th and South. Combined with her previous locations at 13th and Sansom and, before that, at 21st and Chestnut, Admirations has been in business 37 years.

People refer to the salon’s current location as “Graduate Hospital.” To me, it’s “Marian Anderson Way.” It’s where the iconic singer lived — and most people don’t know: From river to river, i.e. the Schuylkill to Delaware, Lombard to Washington Avenue, this was a historic Black community. My grandparents moved to 20th and Kater after World War II; my grandmother would tell me South Street, this shopping area, was the Black mecca of Philly.

For Deborah, an elite Black woman entrepreneur, to bring her business here feels foundational. It’s a shining light for the community moving forward.

Deborah Mayfield inside her salon.

We met 26 years ago. When I expanded my food delivery service from West Philly to Germantown to Center City and South Philly, from Snyder Avenue up to Stenton and Ogontz avenues, I’d stop by Admirations and it would be popping. I’d bring my cakes, my turkey lasagna, my fried chicken, seafood pasta salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, and put everything in a basket.

The clients would be sitting under the dryers or on the waiting bench and would pick out what they wanted. Deborah would insist I serve everybody before her. “I’ll get mines last,” she’d say. When she finally got her lunch, she’d also treat her customers to food.

Deborah Mayfield and a client.

That’s just how Deborah is. Classy. Classic. Chic. A boss lady, a style queen (check out her red bottoms in these photos), a mother, grandmother and industry veteran who has kept her clients for decades. When I was shooting her for this story, I saw women there that I last saw in Admirations in the 90s. My daughter is an Admirations client, too. She’s gone since she was 12, for braiding her hair, pressing it out. They’re also known for their press and curls, weaves and men’s braids.

Becoming a boss lady

Growing up, “Braids were my thing,” says Mayfield, “From 9 to about 18, I would say to myself: I want to do hair when I grow up. Mother didn’t want me to do hair. I pursued college for a year, for her.” After that year, she got her cosmetology license. By 19, she was managing a salon at 13th and Walnut. By 21, she was the salon’s co-owner.

Soon thereafter, she became a mother of three boys. “I worked so hard to give them the finest things in life,” she says. Among those things: A home in Moorestown, NJ, “where there are no corner stores, where they could see a different way of living.” Deborah would bring the boys back to North Philly to visit their grandmother. She now pays her grandchild’s tuition at Moorestown Friends, “to ensure his foundation starts strong and surrounds him with different cultures and diversity of people, so he can learn to get along with everybody. Because we all got to get along to make money and be successful.”

She also owns Learning World Child Academy, a daycare at 5140 Germantown Avenue, serving about 60 children and employing 15 women. Last year, Deborah married David Mayfield, a friend I know from back in the day in North Philly. He works in insurance.

As for Admirations, Deborah feels she’s found a home. “For me to be led to this side of the town, from Chestnut street to here, I feel like this is where I belong,” she says. “Hopefully the Iandlord will let me buy the building one day. I’ll bring the Black community back to South Street.”

Ericka Byrd and an Admirations client.

West Philly born and raised with a slosh of Brooklyn, New York in between, Big Rube partnered with Mitchell & Ness in 2000 to help make it a global brand marketing and selling high-end vintage jerseys. He has been photographing Philly since 2009, including in a Daily News Column from 2011 to 2017. He’s also a chef, operating Chef Big Rube’s Kitchen seven days a week at Pitcher’s Pub in Manayunk, selling the best handmade food in a Main Street dive bar.


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