In an unassuming little building on the corner of 2nd avenue and 13th street you’ll find one of the most magical little salons in the state of Georgia. At the front doors you enter the secret passcode and walk past other offices and small businesses to the end of the hall where ‘The Lee Tones’ is emblazoned on the door in a groovy font. Inside you will find a work of art. The space is full of refurbished, vintage furniture from the 60’s and 70’s, various plants and crystals that cast rainbows when they catch the sunlight. It’s likely that you’ll hear very chill instrumental music or lofi hip hop drifting through the air. Pothos vines cling to the walls alongside a plethora of art, including a newly painted mural by Gabi Barnes from StinkySigns that trails along in curves and waves of orange, crimson and blue. The Tones, as it is affectionately referred to, is known about town as the queer salon. Brandi P. Judge left her longtime salon, Coopers Uptown, amidst the 2020 shutdown. It was then that she realized the time had arrived for her to create a salon space for the things and community that she loves. We sat down with her to hear all about it.
Q: You worked at Coopers Uptown for a long time! Didn't you?
A: Yes! I was actually working in that building for 20 years. It changed ownership a couple times but it was always a queer owned space. It was cool watching the River Center and Uptown develop from that spot. Robert Jenkins eventually bought it and turned it into Coopers Uptown, who I’ve worked with on and off since I was 19. I’m very grateful to Robert for everything!
Q: Tell us about your team.
A: Taylor Tindal started apprenticing for me at Coopers Uptown in 2018 and got her license while doing that. She is our color specialist and also offers scalp massage. I met Rachel Crosby in 2020 as my local barista at Fountain City Coffee. They were in esthetician school at the time and after their first haircut with me, knew they wanted to be involved. They started as our social media person and now they’re also our in house facial waxer.
Later on I met CJ, Caleb Jackson, through Rachel. I gave them their first tarot deck because I could just feel it was right for them to have it. They’re so magical. I love having a space set up for them to do readings. We also have Frankie King who is currently in cosmetology school and will likely be doing cuts when they finish. We’re working on setting up a body waxing space as well! The Tones really want to foster up and coming stylists.
Of course, there is also Goose and Pippa who are the real bosses around here. Clients love them.
Q: The key code and how hidden away it is makes it feel like a private club.
A: It kind of is! We want it to feel very cozy and we typically only service one client at a time. We absorb and take home so much energy with us at the end of the day. It’s hard to shut that down. We practice exercises to release that. I wanted to have a space that normalized talking about mental health and the nervous system. Sometimes if it feels right we’ll start a haircut with meditation so the privacy really facilitates those kinds of experiences.
Q: Was it always the intent to create a space geared towards the LGBTQ+ community?
A: I think that happened very naturally. It’s always been a part of what I’ve been about. I remember saying, literally in 1993, “We need a pride flag hanging!” I had just gotten back from New Orleans and they had them hanging everywhere and we were an all queer space. So it was important for me to carry that over into The Lee Tones. When Taylor and I would talk about what we wanted The Tones to be like it always came back to being an inclusive space for all hair and textures. That’s one of the reasons we price the way we do. We are a flat, hourly rate salon. No tips are necessary. Good work cannot be rushed and we take our time to give you the effortless and beautiful shape you’re looking for. ◼️