By Tracey Porpora Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jackie DePeppo Mortensen says that her mother's death gave her the push she needed to open her own hair studio in Sola Salons, a franchise that includes 29 individual studios in Port Richmond. She named it after her mom: Junie Moon's Beauty Box.
Jackie DePeppo Mortensen, 32, always looked up to her mother, June Palo, 67, a teacher and entrepreneur who was a breast and bone cancer survivor.
"My mother had gotten breast cancer; she was Stage 4, but she was over that for about eight years. That's when it metastasized and she ended up with bone cancer," said Mortensen, a Westerleigh resident.
And the cancer wasn't all. In between the two cancers she ended up having open heart surgery in October 2017.
"I moved back in with her when she had the open heart surgery. I cut my work schedule to help take care of her," said Mortensen. "Then, last February, she started getting back pain, they took all these tests and it ended up that she had bone cancer. Together with my brother and sister we took turns taking her to Cornell [Weill Cornell Hospital in Manhattan] several times a week for bone infusions and all these different treatments."
Although Palo made it through her bone cancer treatments, on April 5 she succumbed to coronavirus (COVID-19).
"I'm not even sure how she caught the virus. She had bone cancer and couldn't leave her house without one of us," said Mortensen. "My step-dad, Mike Palo, died in January, and that really affected her."
Mortensen said she not only lost her mother, she lost her best friend.
"Everyone loved my mother. She was a legitimate angel," she said.
LOOKING BACK Mortensen said her mother was bravely battling bone cancer at the time she contracted the coronavirus.
"We were trying to avoid seeing her because of the virus. But she needed help, especially after my step-father died. ... She was sick at the end of March. No one at that point was aware of how crazy the virus was. She was sick for 10 days. But she got sick a lot because she had a weakened immune system," Mortensen recalled.
She said that her sister had taken Palo to the hospital -- but even though she was hospitalized, still she "seemed ok."
"But then they told us she'd have 24 hours if she didn't intubate, and my mother didn't want to. But then she lived for six days -- and she was getting better. It was like a roller coaster. But then she got worse; they had to put her on morphine. She actually passed on Palm Sunday, which was her favorite holiday," said Mortensen, noting that her whole family also contracted coronavirus. However, most, including herself, only suffered minor symptoms.
A NEW START A 13-year veteran in the hair industry, Mortensen said that her mother's death gave her the push she needed to open her own hair studio in Sola Salons, a franchise that includes 29 individual studios in Port Richmond. She named it after her mom: Junie Moon's Beauty Box.
"Everyone called my mom Junie Moon," Mortensen recalled.
"I feel like I'm with her when I'm there [in the studio]," she said, while chocking back the tears. "It's all about her. My mom always had businesses, and she would have been so proud. Everything in there [from pink walls to moon decor] reminds me of her."
OPENING IN SOLA SALONS Mortensen -- who formerly worked at various salons, including Pilo Arts Salon, Brooklyn, and Marucci Hair Design in Westerleigh -- said she chose to open in Sola Salons because of the intimate environment.
"Sola offers a private, one-on-one studio. So I felt with everything going on [coronavirus], people would feel more safe. It's not a full-blown salon. So people wouldn't be walking in wondering how many other clients would be there and what protocols are in place," she said, noting she opened on Aug. 10. "But with my studio it literally is just me and the client there. It's the safest possible option."
Mortensen -- who offers a full range of services, from tape-in hair extensions, to vibrant fashion colors and cuts -- said her greatest joy comes when her clients' dreams come to life.
"I love to see the look on their face when they see their transformation," she said. "As funny as it sounds, you can change people's lives with a new cut or color."
Mortensen admitted that upstarting a business during a global pandemic -- plus having lost her mother in the middle of it -- wasn't easy.
"This is something I always wanted," she said. "As far as my future, I got married a year ago; I don't have children yet, and it's a good time to bet on myself."
JUNIE MOON'S BEAUTY BOX AT A GLANCE Website: juniemoonsbeautybox.glossgenius.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/Junie-moons-beauty-box Instagram: www.instagram.com/juniemoonsbeautybox
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