Located at 4919 N. Broad St in the Logan section of Philadelphia, B & K III Cosmetics and Beauty Supply is owned by a Korean family that has lived in Philadelphia for more than 20 years.
Store manager Antonio Jun has been working in the beauty supply industry and running his parents’ business for more than ten years.
B & K is the Jun family’s third business in America.
“When we first came to America we had nothing, we were very poor,” said Jun. “My parents worked full time and whatever money they had left at the end of the month they would save.”
After saving money and developing relationships with other Koreans, the Jun family was able to receive loans from other Korean residents. The funds were then used to establish their first small business – a corner deli.
The Jun family then opened their second business – a laundromat. After gathering their resources and a loan from Antonio Jun’s aunt, both businesses were sold to establish B & K III Cosmetics and Beauty Supply, which happened to be bigger than the laundromat and deli combined.
“It was basically me and my other brother doing a lot of translating from English to Korean, Korean to English so my parents could communicate with other individuals,” said Jun.
Only selling hair wigs and extensions its first couple of years, it took a while for the family business to become the popular store of the neighborhood that it is today.
“Business was slow,” he said. “But then we realized there was a lot of underutilized space in the store so we decided to carry general merchandise.”
After stocking counters and shelves with items that people use on a daily bases, the Jun family business blossomed.
Customer, Isaiah Gilliland said that what he likes most about B & K is that the variety of products they sell.
“I come here for my T-shirts and brushes and they always got them,” said Gilliland.
B & K has become a one-stop shop where the community comes to purchase things from beauty products to socks to karaoke machines. Jun explained that convenience plays a big part in their success.
“Since we’re one of the bigger stores of the neighborhood and started carrying a lot of those things, they wouldn’t have to resort to traveling outside of Logan to buy it,” said Jun.
Customer Briana Brooks said that what she likes most about the store is their professionalism.
“I like that I can come early in the morning before I go to work and they’ll be open,” said Brooks. “Most beauty stores open when they want and not when they’re supposed to.”
In order to become the community enterprise that it is today, Jun said they never forget the small things that other businesses forget to do.
“The main thing about us is that we’re consistently opening on time, we keep our shelves stocked with merchandise, we offer good customer service and we keep our prices reasonable,” said Jun.
The hair and cosmetic industry, like all industries, experiences trends.
“In the African American line, there used to be a lot of weaves and extensions being sold,” said Jun. “A thing called Remy hair was being sold a lot.”
While the number of weaves and wigs sold is decreasing, the number of natural hair products is increasing.
According to marketing research company Mintel, relaxers represent 21 percent of the hair care market. Relaxers are a hair cream that is designed to chemically relax or straighten the hair of those with curly hair. The number of relaxers sold has been down 15 percent since 2011 as a result of the natural hair trend.
“People are not putting weaves in their hair but instead choosing to keep their hair natural and buying higher end products to help them achieve that look,” Jun said.
Beauty supply is a very lucrative business. According to Beauty Supply Institute’s 2014 research, the beauty supply industry makes an estimated $15 billion per year. The research also shows that 96 percent of the customers are African American.
As the beauty supply industry and its customers continue to shift, B & K III continues to shift with it.
– Text and images by Terence Oliver
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