Closing The Loop: Delores West

Jun 25, 2015

Delores West said, "As fate would have it, the spa closed, so my employer called and said, 'I have a job, it's not anything you've done.' I said I'd give it try."
Credit Warren Miller

Delores West was born in Jacksonville, but spent most of her life in Miami.

"My grandparents moved to Miami when my mother was fourteen and pregnant with me,” she said. “We moved in an area called Overtown which is an inner-city area. The apartments were very small —  the place must have been 500 square feet — but it felt like a mansion."

Overtown was a poor but vibrant community in the years before the riot of 1980.

"We ate lunch at the public parks. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and I remember that she could make a list and send me to the store, and Mr. Foster would just give it to me and put it on credit,” said West. “I remember the barber shop, the owner worked in the coroner's office, but he owned the barber shop and also had a record shop."

West graduated from high school and enlisted in the army. Before she reported for induction, though, there was a detour.

"I got married behind my mother's back ... a man 23 years older than I was,” she said. “I wanted to get pregnant quickly so I wouldn't have to go into the service, but I didn't get pregnant."

West served her two-year enlistment and started her family. She became a nail technician, which is what brought her back to Jacksonville.

"I was a nail technician for 25 years, working at a shop and for private clients on South Beach,” she said. “I got an offer to open up a spa here."

Over years of working with regular and new clients, West developed a particular skill.

"When people are talking to me, I really listen to what they're saying, to find out what their need is and if I can help them. I have the heart of a servant,” she said. “People today don't take time out with. Everybody's caught up into their own thing."

One person who noticed West’s ability to listen is her current employer, the owner of a real estate agency.

"As fate would have it, the spa closed,” said West. “So my employer called and said, 'I have a job, it's not anything you've done.' I said I'd give it try, and she said, 'I know you'll be fine because you love people.'"

Even though West had had no experience in real estate, she was offered a job as a receptionist at the agency, and is working on getting her sales license. It's an industry she plans to stay in.

"I like it a lot,” she said. “I didn't pass my test the first time, but I'll take it again as long as I need to. I look forward to doing that."

Over the past few years, her children and grandchildren have relocated to Northeast Florida.

"I have three children and five grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way in November. They all came up here to be with me, one after the other. My family is so important to me, and here I am with them, where I started, where I was born."

And all of it is because West listens to people ... deeply.

"That's a gift. And you take that gift with you wherever you go."