Alexandria, VA

When Monte Durham’s contract with TLC expired in March, he realized he needed to do something else. The star of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta was told that the network would be going dark because of the pandemic, and Durham quickly decided to go back to his roots as a hairstylist and open a boutique in Old Town.

“My goal is to inspire, educate, and hopefully motivate people to go to the next level with their look,” Durham told ALXnow.

Durham is opening Salon Monte this Saturday, September 12. At 6:30 p.m., Mayor Justin Wilson is scheduled to cut a ribbon for the 825-square-foot salon at 210 S. Union Street. That’s next door to Hotel Indigo and across the street from the Union Street Public House.

Why go to Salon Monte? It’s simple, Durham says.

“We’ve got location and valet parking,” he said. “The big hubbub about this is that it’s new. It’s fresh, it’s invigorating. You’re going to be serviced totally differently.”

The bridal image consultant, who lives in Belle Haven, was filming Say Yes to the Prom in New York City when the pandemic struck, and by mid-March was back home when he got the news that the network was going dark.

“In the midst of all of that, our contracts expired,” Durham said. “Are they going to reinvent the wheel? Who knows. So, while we’re waiting on that, I thought, ‘You know what? Ten years of traveling and going back and forth, if we don’t film again, what can I do? Well, after all I am a hairstylist.”

Durham is still appearing at wedding events, including the upcoming Alexandria Wedding Showcase this Sunday, September 13. He’s hired a hair director and a client service director to work with him in his boutique.

“When a father looks at the price of a wedding dress and says, ‘She’s only gonna wear it one day,’ I go, ‘Okay. I want you to ask your wife where her wedding dress is,'” Durham said. “They always know exactly.”

The salon was far from finished a week before the opening, but Durham said when finished it will include his private studio with a large portrait of his style icon Jackie Kennedy, shampoo lounges and all of his own personal hair care products.

“Everything in the salon is custom because it’s small,” he said. “The lampshades cost me an arm and a leg, but they look so good.”

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Margaret Chisley has seen it all. The 109-year-old lifelong Alexandria resident celebrated in style on June 26 on her front porch behind a plastic screen as well-wishers drove by, waved signs and honked their horns.

“I’m so excited,” Chisley said behind the protective screen. “Thank you all so much.”

Chisley was born on June 26, 1911, when William Howard Taft was president and the sinking of the Titanic was still a year away. She graduated from Parker-Gray High School, attended the Cordoza Business School, and was later a notary public, legal secretary and the first African American Secretary for the Alexandria School Board. She is a lifelong member of Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, The Hopkins House Association and the NAACP, and has lived in her Old Town home for more than 80 years.

The City Council recently passed a resolution declaring June 26 “Margaret Amanda Chisley Day.”

“Whereas Margaret Amanda Chisley is a devoted aunt, cousin, godmother, and friend, she is known for her helping hand, and her kind and encouraging words, but most importantly her love, wit and charm, and of course her fashion and style,” the proclamation reads.

Chisley’s niece, Katie Claybourne, said her aunt has a great sense of humor.

“If you could hear her talk, you would never think that she was her age,” Claybourne said.

Nia Spencer, another of Chisley’s nieces, said that her nickname is “The General.”

“She has always been on top of everything and making sure that we all were on top of things,” Spencer said. “She’d say, ‘Don’t forget you need to do this,’ or ‘You don’t forget you need to do that.’ She’s always just been kind of the matriarch and the person who kept us all in line and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Whole Foods Donating to Local Nonprofit — “Now through the June 1, 2020, you can support The Child & Family Network Centers (CFNC) in Alexandria when you bring your own bag at Whole Foods at 1700 Duke Street. By bringing your own bag, you’ll save on the five-cent bag fee, which will automatically be donated to CFNC.” [Zebra]

Art Program for Residents in Recovery — “This fall, the Alexandria Residential Treatment Center (ARTC) partnered with Heard, a local nonprofit, to offer art workshops for individuals in recovery. An Alexandria-based creative arts initiative, Heard partners with nonprofits and local governments to provide marginalized and at-risk adults the opportunity to be heard through art and creativity with workshops in creative writing, visual arts, poetry, dance, etiquette and improvisation.” [City of Alexandria]

Interview With Alexandria’s Celebrity Salon Owner — “Picture this: Monte Durham, the debonair fashion director of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, strolls through Old Town Alexandria, his adopted home. Folks pass him on the street, and his keen eye for a chic coiffure assesses every ‘do. Finally, he spots his subject. ‘You need to come into my shop,’ he says in his charming drawl.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Reminder: MLK Commemoration Tonight — “The City of Alexandria planning to host a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. [on] Wednesday, Jan. 15. The ceremony is scheduled for 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Beth El Hebrew Congregation (3850 Seminary Road).” [ALXnow]

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