‘Our hair is our crown’

Braids, Dreads and Twists Shop by Carress opens in FD

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Carress Bjorklund, of Fort Dodge, left, poses with a sign she made for her business. Her son, Darrien McElroy, 13, stands at right.

Carress Bjorklund’s hair has long been a source of pride for her — from both a cosmetic and cultural point of view.

Bjorklund, of Fort Dodge, grew up in a single-parent household where there wasn’t a lot of extra money to be had.

“I didn’t always have clean clothes,” she said. “I didn’t always have what everyone else had. But my hair was healthy. I may not have had clean clothes, but doing my hair, I could practice on my hair and that would make me feel good about myself. It’s your crown. It’s your trophy.”

Bjorklund was inspired by her grandmother, Mary Lee Mosley, in particular. Mosley would leave the city just to get her hair done the way she wanted.

“I practiced on my own hair repeatedly,” Bjorklund said. “Watching my grandmother motivated me to practice on myself and never stop.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Miranda Dencklau, owner of Expressions Hair Studio, is all smiles at her shop, 2226 Second Ave. N. Also located in the space is Braids, Dreads and Twists Shop by Carress.

Bjorklund started styling hair when she was 10. By the time she was 13, she was styling her family’s hair.

“My grandmother — she always kept her hair nice and done,” Bjorklund recalled. “I thought, ‘oh that’s nice.’ And eventually I I did her hair as she got older before she passed away.”

Most recently, Bjorklund was motivated by another member of her family — her son, Derrien McElroy, 13.

“My son saw how I felt about it (African American hair styles) and said you should keep pushing and open up a shop,” Bjorklund said. “He said, ‘you can do it.'”

Next, she happened to drive by Expressions Hair Studio at 2226 Second Ave. N. The building is owned by Miranda Dencklau.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Carress Bjorklund, owner of Braids, Dreads and Twists Shop by Carress, holds a hair piece at the shop. Bjorklund specializes in African American hair styles. She opened her space on June 19.

“Part of it looked vacant, but I knew it was a hair salon,” Bjorklund said.

When she approached Dencklau about the idea of renting space and providing African American hairstyles, Dencklau was all for it.

“I was super excited about it,” Dencklau said. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do braids and all that fun stuff. When she came in I was like, ‘oh fun.’ I am a fun, loud person, so nice to have someone with that same balance.”

On June 18, Bjorklund officially opened Braids, Dreads, and Twists Shop by Carress.

Her son has been helping her along the way.

“He’s like my business partner pretty much and he’s only 13,” Bjorklund said. “He helps order products and different supplies. He pushed me to say I can do it.”

McElroy is passionate about the different styles. He said some work places and schools have discriminated against the Black community because of the hair some choose to display.

“They say it’s not work appropriate or at different schools,” McElroy said. “A law passed (in certain states) that you cannot be discriminated against for different hair styles.”

The CROWN Act was created in 2019 to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles, according to the campaign’s website.

“With the dreads, the braiding, a lot of times, slaves had Sunday that was the only time they could leave the plantation was to go to church,”McElroy said. “So oftentimes they would braid or dread their hair on Sundays so it would last longer. And then they would braid their hair the next Sunday. Our hair is our crown in our culture.”

African-style braiding dates back thousands of years, Bjorklund said.

“People would get their hair braided and twisted and locked to identify who they are,” she said. “As time went on, some people would buy slaves and shave their heads because they wouldn’t be identified by the tribe.

“That’s how we identify culturally. Sometimes it’s used as a marital status or if you’re rich or not rich.”

Bjorklund said in today’s society, it’s more about preference.

“Now it’s fun and hip and needs to be brought more to Fort Dodge,” she said. “Where others can be taught and educated and a place where children and even all the way up can have the right hair treatments. Miranda is not African American but would be great for her to learn these things to broaden her clientel.”

Bjorklund offers the following styles: box braids, Ghana braids, lemonade braids, microbraids, cornrows, crochet, dreads, retwist dreads and others. She said the average appointment lasts two to three hours, but can be longer. Prices vary on hair length and time of service.

Bjorklund’s heritage is important to her.

“Both of my parents’ grandparents came from down south,” she said. “On my dad’s side, they came from Georgia on a train and on mother’s side came from Mississippi on a train. Their parents were part of slavery and wanted to break the generational curses on slavery so they were sent up here for freedom.

“They put in so much work for their freedom and my job is to leave them something part of our heritage. Doing hair is what I’m giving back to our community and them. Leave them something to be proud of.”

About Miranda Dencklau

Dencklau, a native of Fort Dodge, graduated from St. Edmond High School in 2015.

She graduated from La’ James International College in 2016.

Dencklau previously worked at Great Clips for about two years.

She’s been the owner of Expressions Hair Studio since February.

“It’s been an amazing, fun exerience,” Dencklau said.

During the COVID-19 shut down, Dencklau spruced up her salon.

“I got it all painted and looking really nice in here,” she said. “It takes time.”

Nikki Ferrell also works as a stylist at Expressions Hair Studio.

To book an appointment visit


or message Carress Bjorklund on Facebook.


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