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Posted: April 20, 2008 3:00 a.m.

Covington's pioneer of style

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Beauty queen: Bertha Goss stands in her beauty salon, located off the Covington square, surrounded by many of the beauty products that she introduced to the community years ago. Photo by Mandi Singer

Bertha Goss is a fixture around Covington.

Originally from Atlanta, Goss moved to Covington 41 years ago and has been operating Bertha's Beauty Lounge off of the square for more than 30 years.

But more than being a longtime entrepreneur and active member of the community, Goss is better known as a trailblazer, paving the way for black business owners in Newton County. Goss' salon is one of the first businesses chartered in Covington by a black resident.

"It wasn't like this around here," Goss said referring to Covington when she arrived. "There weren't a lot of buildings and no shopping centers. It was very small."

 Born in 1923, Goss is no stranger to the country's struggles through integration and civil rights. But she never let the turbulent times stop her when she decided she wanted to open her own salon.

"When I got here, the man that used to own the shop across the street didn't want me here," she said. "He told me I wasn't welcome and to go away."

But Goss stayed. Rather than buckling to the pressures of racial prejudice, Goss persevered, eventually earning respect of her fellow business owners.

"I knew I had the support of the people who rented this building to me," she added. "As long as they wanted me here, I felt welcome."

Along with her success as a business owner, Goss was a pioneer in the cosmetology industry. She was the first beautician to introduce hair relaxers and weaves to the Covington area.

"They weren't doing anything like that when I came out to Covington," she said referring to hair weaving. "We did that stuff in Atlanta, but when I got here, nobody was doing anything like it."

Goss has been a beautician for as long as she can remember. She began shampooing hair for her godmother at the age of 8 and has never given her career a second thought.

"I just love working with the people and I love doing hair," she said. "It's just relaxing and enjoyable. I get to meet new people and talk to my friends. I can't imagine doing anything else."

Goss owned and operated salons in Cartersville and Monticello and lived in New York for eight years during the 1960's. But once she made it to Covington, she never left.

"It was too fast for me up there," she chuckled referring to her years in New York.

Several of Goss' customers have been coming to Bertha's almost from the beginning.

"She started doing my hair in 1970," said longtime customer and friend Patricia Kirkland. "Bertha started doing my hair when my son was two, and he's 39 now."

Apart from her salon, Goss stays active in the community. She sat on the Covington City Council from 1993 to 2006, and has volunteered her service to several organizations including Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful.

 Religion plays a significant role in Goss' life. She is an active member at New Beginning Full Gospel Church and serves on the mother's board where she lends advice to mothers and helps with children.

 "I've always enjoyed working with younger people," said Goss. "When I was in Atlanta, I loved teaching Sunday school and working with the children."

Goss still occasionally teaches Sunday school whenever the regular teacher is unavailable, but prefers socializing and singing with her fellow members.

 At 84, she still goes to work everyday, and while she doesn't serve as many customers as she once did, she still finds time to pass along her skills to aspiring beauticians seeking their beautician's license.

 As a state certified beautician with over 70 years of experience, Goss is one of a handful qualified to teach techniques in weaving.

 "I enjoy teaching my techniques," Goss said, proudly pointing to her teaching certificate on the wall above her beautician's station. "I still teach licensed cosmetologists how to do weaves. The techniques really haven't changed."

 But above it all, Goss enjoys life and says she is just another friend in the community who likes to share her time with people.

 "I enjoy my customers and the people I see everyday," she said. "I try and help the young ones and make sure they understand how important it is going to church. I just try and teach them to do the right things."

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