Thurmont’s Local Power Couple: Champ and Rhonda Brown

When asked what brought Champ Brown to Thurmont, his response was, “Fate!”

After working in Baltimore for a while, Champ and his wife Rhonda wanted to live in a quieter area. Champ got a job as a manager at the Complete Auto Diagnostic in Thurmont, and so he and Rhonda relocated there.

Many years later, Champ and Rhonda are both business owners in Thurmont and important members of the community. They each own different businesses in different industries, but they’ve supported each other in business just as they’ve supported each other in marriage all these years.

Champ was originally the manager of Complete Auto Diagnostic. When the owner decided to sell the business, Champ bought it. At the time, Rhonda hadn’t yet started her business and while she was in the lobby of Champ’s auto shop, one of his customers was there and had just gotten a haircut that she didn’t like.

“My mom always said to carry your tools with you!” Rhonda’s shears and water bottle were in her car, so she got those out and fixed the woman’s haircut right there in the lobby. The woman was so happy with her new cut that she suggested Rhonda open a business in Thurmont. Rhonda decided to do so, and later, Images of U Hair Studio was born.

Making Businesses Out of Lifelong Talents

Champ shares, “I always had a fascination for cars. I liked tinkering around with things. I went to school for it. The rest is history.”

Meanwhile, Rhonda is a third-generation hair stylist. Her grandmother used to do haircuts for $2 and wet sets for $5. “I used to go to my mother’s salon when I was a child. My grandmother would be there doing a wet set for older ladies. My mom was using chemicals on hair and I wanted to understand why. My mom said, ‘If you really want to learn, I’ll teach you to do it.’

Rhonda then took cosmetology classes and got her certification, but she really learned everything from her mom. And she loves what she does. “If I could do hair for free, I actually would. I love it, and love keeping the legacy of it.”

Rhonda and Champ support each other’s businesses in multiple ways. First, they recommend one another. They also offer complementary specials, like “Get a haircut and get a free oil change.” Additionally, they each have the skill sets to step in and support each other’s customers as needed. Champ is a barber and he can work at the salon if Rhonda needs extra help. Rhonda is an ASE Certified Mechanic, and she can step in at Champ’s auto shop when needed.

The Tight-Knit Thurmont Community

Rhonda found the location she’s now in on Church Street and it opened completely in 2018. Rhonda did a lot of research about other salons in the area and wanted to stand out on her own. She also leaned on other community members for support in the early days of her business.

When Rhonda first opened her doors, and was working to get customers, she talked to a nearby store owner, Jeannie, who owns MD Vapors. Jeannie allowed Rhonda to leave her business cards in the shop, and that helped get the word out. People would see the cards and come to Rhonda’s salon to learn more.

At first, Rhonda felt nervous being an African American business owner because she didn’t see many other African American business owners in the area. However, when she opened the store and locals came in to meet her, she felt really comfortable. She says about the community, “If you have a problem, they come in and help you. They don’t care what you look like or where you come from--you are family.”

Champ shares, “The Thurmont community means so much to us. It’s a close-knit family and we take pride in that.”

Adjusting for COVID

COVID brought its challenges to Rhonda, as it did for salons all over the country. They had to close for five months and then gradually reopen.

Rhonda has since made it her mission to create an environment inside of her salon that would allow everyone to come inside and relax. With bunches of lavender around the store, updated decor that gives a calming aesthetic, and soothing music playing in the background, customers can melt away their worries while they get their treatment. She’s also trained her stylist who works with her on the weekends to give scalp massages as a very affordable add-on service. Overall, she created a holistic, relaxing feel without the spa pricing.

Rhonda and Champ both work to keep their prices affordable and have a community-centric approach. Champ says, “With COVID, people are struggling. I do what I can to help the best way I can.” Rhonda says, “Champ gives you honesty.” He’ll give you the real truth about your vehicle, even if that means saying--don’t waste your money trying to fix it!

Their Advice For Opening A Business

When asked if they had any advice for those who are underrepresented and thinking about starting a business in Thurmont, Rhonda said: “When you go into an area, talk to different merchants, and ask about their struggle in the beginning. Their struggle might be different, but you can learn something from them that will help you get over the hump a lot faster.”

Champ’s suggestion was, “I would tell them to go for it. Always check out the surroundings and look at the area. Make sure whatever business you’re looking to open up is right for that area. If it is and looks like it will be a success, go for it.”

With a passion for the community, and for giving creative, honest, and high-quality service, it’s no wonder that they get customers all the way from Baltimore, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Champ and Rhonda set the example for success, both in business and in community living.

Find out more about their businesses:

Complete Auto Diagnostic
7702 Roddy Creek Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788
Phone: 240 -288-1075

Images of U Hair Studio
224 North Church Street Suite M
Phone: 240-626-5701 or 240-288-7240