Chuck Williams: When it comes to Sister Wig, maybe the joke's on us

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 28, 2013 

Mike Haskey All merchandise at Sister Wig Shop is being sold at 50% off. 10/24/13


When we don’t understand something, many times our first reaction is to ridicule it.

It’s often easier to make fun of something than to take the time to dissect it and peel back the layers that could lead to understanding.

I am guilty of this. It was a crutch that I used for many years. Today, I still do it, but it happens less frequently. It is one of those character flaws I have become aware of over time.

I don’t know if it is a byproduct of being a journalist, or what. We are often the ones paid to understand things that make little or no sense.

If the lack of understanding of someone or something is grounded in cultural differences, it can be far more complicated to understand and dissect.

Last week, I had one of those moments when understanding took the place of a really bad joke. Like most people who have spent any time in downtown Columbus over the past quarter century, I have made jokes about the number of wig shops located down here.

We had more than our fair share, it seemed.

At the height, there were about a half dozen of the shops. All were owned by Koreans, and they catered to an almost all black consumer base.

I am not Korean, and I am not black. And, come to think of it, most of the people I have heard make fun of these shops over the years were not Korean or black, either.

In reporting last week, I discovered that most wig suppliers are Korean, the wholesalers are Korean, and they sold primarily to Korean merchants.

Columbus was a logical choice for these businesses to open — and grow. One reason was a larger Korean population than some communities because of Fort Benning. All but one of the downtown wig shops in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s were owned by Korean women married to soldiers.

They owned the businesses and the downtown buildings. They were buying when few were.

I have never been in the market for fake hair, so I don’t much understand that either. Were these stores all on the up and up?

I don’t know that either. I suspect some of them at times dealt in knock-off items like purses and the like.

But I now understand that there was a market for wigs. And these merchants served that market.

And they served it well.

Now, with the liquidation of Sister Wig in the 1100 block of Broadway, these businesses are all but gone. They served their purpose over the years. They were the placeholders between a downtown that was once vibrant and a downtown that is once again vibrant.

For that, we owe these shop owners a debt.

You won’t ever hear me make a wig shop joke again. As the merchants sell these buildings for nice profits, we should all pause and think about that for a minute.

At the end of the day, the joke may very well have been on us.

More Chuck Williams:

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Chuck Williams, senior editor for content,

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