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A Beauty Revolution:
The Life of
Beverly Mascoll

A woman stands in a store crowded with beauty products

Beverly Mascoll (1947-2001) founded one of Canada’s largest distributors of haircare and beauty products for Black women. Her hard work and determination to succeed had ripple effects that served her community through care, service, philanthropy, and beyond.

This story expands on the Heritage Toronto plaque about Beverly Mascoll to be installed at Bloor and Bathurst in 2021, and is written by Emerging Historian Jordyn Gibson.  It was made possible through the support of our donors and Emerging Historian champions.

July 31, 2021

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From Nova Scotia to Toronto


Beverly came to Toronto with her family as a teenager. Working at a local beauty supply company, Beverly learned about the industry she would eventually redefine.

On October 29, 1941, Beverly Ash was born in Fall River, Nova Scotia. She was the only daughter to her parents Arthur and Gwendolyn Ash. Her father was a railway porter and later, a truck driver. Her grandmother, Martha Ash, cleaned homes and would often bring Beverly along to work. 

Both her parents and her grandparents were born in Nova Scotia, but in 1957, when Beverly was 13, the family decided to move to Toronto. 

She attended Central Technical School and after graduation, began working as a secretary for Toronto Barber and Beauty Supply. With her notable work ethic, she became assistant to the president of the company, Nat Kaufman.  Her influence in the space grew and she was known around the city as the person people went to for advice on the hair and beauty industry. 

“

Beverly was willing to go out and do what she had to do, and the rest is history.

”

Nat Kaufman, former President of Toronto Barber and Beauty Supply


Central Technical School, Bathurst Street, 1950s. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

Marriage, Birth, and Business


Beverly started her own beauty supply business after she noticed a lack of Black haircare products in the market.

In 1964, Beverly Ash married Emerson Mascoll. He was a fellow maritimer from Sydney, Nova Scotia, who came to Toronto just one year after Beverly in 1958. He experienced discrimination seeking a job as a chemist in Toronto, but eventually found work at McGuinness Distillers.

Both possessing a spirit of enterprise, they recognized the lack of Black haircare products, specifically relaxers in the market. Beverly capitalized on the opportunity and positioned herself to meet this growing need for salons and the community they served. 

By 1970, following the birth of her son, she decided to start her own business: Mascoll Beauty Supply Ltd. 

Beverly went to banks for start-up support, and was denied loans. She was told by the banks that she needed to have her husband sign for her and that they didn’t believe there was any real market for Black beauty supplies. 

With a $700 investment of her own money, ambition, and a newborn baby boy in her arms, Beverly began selling products from her car. She was a traveling saleswoman for the first two years of her business, building relationships with the local salons and the customer base that would grow into the community she would come to serve and support.


Advertisement for Johnson Product's Ultra Sheen Beauty line, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 18, 1975.
Beverly's business soon found national and international success, including a deal with Johnson Products and a new storefront on Bathurst Street.

After finding success, and with inventory overcrowding her basement, Beverly flew to Chicago to make a deal with Johnson Products. Founded in 1954 by husband-and-wife team George and Joan Johnson, Johnson Products was the first Black-owned business to be publicly traded in the United States. Beverly asked if her business could be Johnson’s Canadian distributor, selling a special line of Black hair products. They said yes. 

In 1973, Beverly opened her first store on 870 Bathurst Street, not far from where her family settled when they first arrived in Toronto from Nova Scotia. The shop became a refuge; a place Black women could get information, community, and support on how to manage and style their uniquely textured hair.  


Johnson Products and Bathurst Street


“

There’s been a tremendous escalation in income among Black women in the past few years ...The Black woman gained tremendously from the (U.S.) civil rights movement ... now she’s getting equal pay for equal work. She can afford beauty care products and, like other women, she’ll pamper herself.

”

George Johnson, founder of Johnson Products
The Toronto Star, April 17, 1980


West side of Bathurst Street, north of Bloor Street, 1997. Patrick Cummins.

Courage, Confidence, and Community


The mainstream market didn’t see the value in catering to the Black demographic, leaving Black women in Canada ignored by the beauty industry.

The most popular product for Black women at the time was relaxers or perms. These products transform the texture of Black hair from a coily afro to a straightened look, creating hairstyles more aligned with non-Black hair.  Access to this hair care was important for Black women who wanted to assimilate into Canadian culture.  An afro, especially after the movements of the 60s, could stand between employment and social mobility. For many, hair was quite seriously a matter of survival. 

Managing the nature of their hair has long been a challenge for Black women living in predominantly white environments. Mascoll’s Beauty Supply offered a place to deal with that challenge.

The height of Beverly’s business success coincided with the rise in Caribbean migration to Canada. Mascoll’s Beauty Supply was a space where newcomers could get a piece of home and family. It was bigger than business; it was community care. 

In 12 years, Mascoll Beauty Ltd. grew into a multi-million dollar company, distributing to 350 hairdressers and retailers across Canada. In 1985, the business had many locations and was Canada’s largest supplier of ethnic beauty products. They supplied Eaton’s, Simpson’s, Shopper’s Drug Mart, and other major retailers across the country. 

“

I measure success in the flexibility of being able to help someone, of being able to make a difference in someone else’s life — that’s really important to me.

”

Beverly Mascoll


Beverly Mascoll demonstrating make-up, May 1979. Erin Combs/Toronto Star
Beverly Mascoll’s business served the community by providing Black women with a space to care for and beautify themselves, addressing a deep need that the mainstream market wasn’t meeting.

Beverly used the wealth generated from her business to give back, constantly finding meaningful ways to serve. She raised funds for Jamaican victims of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, ran the education awareness program for the Canadian Sickle Cell Society, was a major supporter of Caribana, served on the board of the Ontario Black History Society and much more. In 1996, she established the Beverly Mascoll Community Foundation to assist the development of youth, women, and minorities. 

For her service and success, she was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1998. She received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Ryerson Polytechnic University and received her BA in Women’s Studies at York University in 2000.  She was also due to receive an honorary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, but passed away before she had the chance to receive it. 

In 2001, Beverly Mascoll died aged 59 of breast cancer at Sunnybrook Hospital. Her funeral was attended by over 1,000 people with dignitaries and community members alike. She was survived by her son, Eldon, and her husband, Emerson.

Beverly left a legacy of love and care for her community. Black-owned businesses of today look to her as a torch bearer, lighting the path of community building through entrepreneurship and fearless leadership in philanthropy. She made the city feel like home for so many who felt forgotten, excluded from an industry, and far from home in a cold country. Her work and the life she lived inspires and motivates Black Canadians. She proved the truth that however humble the beginnings, with community and the right work ethic, the sky’s the limit. 


Fearlessness and Philanthropy


Sources

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