By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
One local businesswoman is celebrating 50 years of service to her community. After contributing countless hours to the betterment of others and garnering ceaseless memories throughout the decades, Charlotte Epperson transitions into retirement, leaving behind a lineage of happiness and hope wherever she walked.
Born and raised in Gadsden, Epperson graduated from Emma Sansom High School in 1966 before obtaining her cosmetology degree from Keevil Kurl School of Beauty. Epperson married her high school sweetheart, Harold, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy. While Harold served his country, Epperson transformed her childhood passion into her profession and served those at home through an exceptional talent she treasured – making others feel beautiful.
Epperson’s love for hair flourished as a young, fascinated girl attending the salon with her mother. After working for a few Gadsden stylists, Epperson transitioned from employee to employer, opening her own salon. Epperson bought her own building in 1989 at the corner of 24th Street and Sansom Avenue in Alabama City, where she supported other local businesses such as Jerry’s Pharmacy and Merrill’s BBQ, extending herself as an advocate for her community for over five decades.
Generosity and thoughtfulness encompass Epperson’s loving and genuine heart, which aligns with her faithfulness and belief in Christ. Described as the most giving and godly person by her daughter, Kimberly Johnson, Epperson exudes the love of Christ to all who know her, demonstrating His charity and goodwill for every client who walked through her doors. To Epperson, those sitting in her salon chair were so much more than strangers seeking a new hairstyle or wanting a trim – they were friends.
“For over 50 years [my mom] has touched more lives than she’ll ever know,” said Johnson. “She’s loved people right where they are. She has truly been all things to all people [whatever they needed]. She has been through so much with many of her customers – she’s laughed and cried [with them] and just been an ear to listen. She loves to serve with every fiber of her body. Her mission has always been to do what Jesus did…love people.”
Epperson proved faithful as a diligent steward for her friends throughout all seasons of their lives, assisting them in happiness and hardship and providing a service greater than skin-deep. Her emotional support and ceaseless encouragement emerged as a stalwart beacon of stability for those who visited her salon, with her clients rising to 80 regular customers per week at one point during her career. From joyous weddings to solemn funerals, traveling to homes and hospitals, no situation or circumstance hindered Epperson from helping a client who needed her.
With an unwavering work ethic and benevolent nature, Epperson inspired a lineage of women to follow in her footsteps. Watching her mother’s commitment to her profession encouraged Johnson to pursue cosmetology as well, and in 1991 she graduated from Keevil Kurl School of Beauty, her mother’s alma mater. The pair shared a workspace alongside a passion, with Johnson joining her mother’s salon to create an unparalleled duo for years.
Johnson, her sister Tiffany Russell and Johnson’s daughter Meaghen formed a family affair in the salon every Friday night as three generations converged to help their community. Epperson collected endless cheerful moments of customers filtering in and out of the salon, gathering enough beloved memories to fill a novel.
Three sisters often joined the Friday night mix, creating an atmosphere enriched with joking and joviality. One of the trio, fearful someone might rob the salon, hid her purse in the bathroom cabinet one evening. Epperson, teasing the woman in good fun, moved it. After rooting through the salon hunting her pocket book, Johnson finally conceded to reveal the lost item – resulting in the woman smacking Johnson with her purse and the shop bursting into laughter.
Johnson witnessed her mother’s virtuous character time and time again throughout her career, sharing that Epperson sacrificed much without complaint when her father entered the ministry to support his work in the church. With an emphasis on family instilled in Johnson and Russell from a young age, they experienced their parents lead as examples of encouragement. As a pastor’s wife, Epperson also taught Sunday School and sang at the church, furthering her acts of service to those around her.
Fifty years ago, Epperson embarked on a journey of generosity and established herself as a successful businesswoman with her clients and community at the core of her mission. When the matriarch of the Epperson family felt compelled to write a new chapter in her life and retire, the woman whose comforting reassurance, stout dedication and altruism aided so many proved that no act of kindness emerges too small and no impact is too modest. Epperson affected those who entered her salon each day, establishing an unforgettable legacy and achieving a milestone as a person who sought to spread joy with every smile, garnering decades of friendship and emerging as an example of commitment and kindness to all.
Retirement for the Eppersons manifests in a quaint Hokes Bluff farm, where goats, chickens, dogs and ducks abound. Epperson and Harold tend a garden together, piddling about on their lovely property and starting and finishing projects. Johnson built a home toward the back of their land and Russell lives just across the street, maintaining that close-knit family unit they treasured as children.
“It has been an honor to learn from her and work with her my entire life,” said Johnson of her mother. “Retirement is bittersweet; bitter because she loves her job, but sweet because she loves my dad more. Life is too short, and time can’t be replaced. I pray they have many years to enjoy their time together and I look forward to seeing my mom’s new season.”