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St. Petersburg salon offers help for Tampa Bay domestic violence victims

B. Blaze Hair Boutique will use its drive-through to distribute food, clothing, first aid kits and information to those in need.
Brandi Gergle, owner of B. Blaze Hair Boutique, is using her shop's drive-through window to give supplies and support to victims of domestic violence.
Brandi Gergle, owner of B. Blaze Hair Boutique, is using her shop's drive-through window to give supplies and support to victims of domestic violence. [ Courtesy of Brandi Gergle ]
Published Apr. 8, 2020
Updated Apr. 10, 2020

As the businesses declared non-essential struggle to remain afloat, St. Petersburg’s B. Blaze Hair Boutique is using its unique drive-through to not only sell wigs and hair extensions, but also to provide help for domestic violence victims.

Brandi Gergle, the boutique’s owner, is a survivor of domestic violence. When social distancing started, the thought of being isolated with an abusive partner led her to make the boutique a haven for victims, despite having to close the full-service salon that makes up half her business.

“I’ve had to overcome a lot and I just don’t believe in giving up,” she said. “Even with COVID-19, we’re still going to be a resource to women.”

Gergle will provide food, clothing, shoes and first aid kits, or as she said, whatever the person needs at that moment. While visitors can’t come inside, they can wait there for safety.

The interior of B. Blaze Hair Boutique.
The interior of B. Blaze Hair Boutique. [ Courtesy of Brandi Gergle ]

She partnered with St. Petersburg-based domestic violence center CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse). She said she chose CASA because it reminded her of the center in South Carolina that helped her leave her abusive relationship.

“Brandi is a great community partner and is so generous in her offer to assist other survivors,” said Lariana Forsythe, CEO of CASA. “And it takes a community of people like Brandi who are willing to lend their support and their voice to the cause.”

B. Blaze has 64,000 followers on Instagram, so CASA will also benefit from the exposure, said Taylor Withers, CASA’s director of marketing and communications.

Withers said that the number of calls to CASA’s help line has increased 52 percent since the last week of March. The increase in abuse is a worldwide phenomenon. There are reports of increased domestic violence in China, Spain and Italy. The United Nations has called for action to make women’s safety a priority during the pandemic.

Forsythe said that being isolated in a relationship with a power and control dynamic is why there is an increase in domestic violence cases. She said that the ability to go to work or distance oneself from an abuser can protect someone in that situation. But when people have to stay home, violence occurs. That’s only compounded by things like unemployment and stress.

B. Blaze is symbolic of Gergle’s survival. She started her dream business after she “took her power back” and moved to Bradenton, where she had gone to high school. She took a job in Sarasota and used $311 from one of her paychecks to purchase hair. She started with a mobile business, then moved to St. Petersburg and opened a shop in Gulfport.

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Gergle eventually outgrew that space, as her business grew globally. In October 2019, she found the 3,000-square-foot space where she now resides, at 2810 34th St. S. It was a former dry cleaner, hence the drive-through, a feature she had been looking for.

She decorated it in a color scheme that features purple, the official color of the domestic violence awareness movement.

B. Blaze Hair Boutique has a purple color scheme, the official color of the domestic violence awareness movement.
B. Blaze Hair Boutique has a purple color scheme, the official color of the domestic violence awareness movement. [ Courtesy of Brandi Gergle ]

A total of 3,000 people turned up at the grand opening. Since posting her intention to help victims on social media, Gergle has already delivered various items to two women who reached out.

“I want to help women everywhere,” she said.

Gergle will support another black- and women-owned business on April 19, when she volunteers her time to the Three Generations Food Truck, which will be giving out free food to health care workers beginning at 10 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2830 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg.

“I feel blessed that I’m able to do any small thing to help my community out,” she said.

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