By Frayn Masters | 5/25/2022
“Coral is in the name [of my business Coral Story Beauty] because it’s my favorite color. The story part of the name is in it because everybody has their own journey, and my whole business started because of an unexpected journey I went on. When I think about a coral reef, it’s an ecosystem that creates a community. That’s the beauty part.”
Morning Dove Barranger, owner of Coral Story Beauty, exudes an inviting mix of spontaneity and smarts. We met up inside her sunny sherbet-toned shop, her skin aglow standing amidst her thoughtfully chosen products. Morning Dove is a Native woman who is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe of Montana, and an empath who says one of her favorite things is listening to customers and their stories. The concept of the store — the sole green skincare and inclusive makeup store in Portland dedicated to organic (not just “clean”) products – was born out of the research she did to alleviate her very serious postpartum skin issues.
While that may have been the impetus to open the shop, a few life paths converging set Morning Dove up for her brick and mortar moment. She gained valuable knowledge from a series of retail jobs (one even yielded the meet-cute moment with the man who would become her husband), but it was her experiences tagging along to her mom’s retail and restaurant jobs that laid foundational values that shaped her path to becoming an owner.
Coral Story Beauty started with a pop up in Lake Oswego, then Morning Dove opened her own store on Division Street, a month prior to the start of the pandemic. The business stress, combined with racial consciousness that arose around the George Floyd marches, cracked open an unexpected connection to the Oregon Native Chamber. Finding the Native community in Portland was a path to further embracing her culture and its history.
Like most of us, the first place to look when working through an issue is to reckon with the past. Her parents were entrepreneurs with mixed results.
Morning Dove grew up in a large family, one of seven children. During the school year she lived with her mom, Doreen, in the wee town of Sweet Grass, MT and over the summers she lived with her dad, Harry, 90 minutes away in Glacier Park, MT. Her father now lives on the Fort Peck Reservation. Some of her favorite memories with her parents include riding and feeding horses with her dad, and growing up having good times in the out-of-doors with her mom, in part, she says, because there wasn’t a whole lot else to do.
Growing up, she often spent time with her mom at her fancy steakhouse job, “Because she’s a single mom and that’s what you have to do sometimes,” — watching her command the floor with her presence. She had respect for her customers and herself.
Morning Dove at Coral Story Beauty. Shop her style.
“You don’t treat anyone crappy,” she recalls Doreen teaching her. Then - beaming about her mom - Morning Dove continues, “She was really really good at her job.” Morning Dove and her siblings were so proud of their mom for taking the leap to open her own vintage clothing shop, especially since she was in an abusive relationship at the time. “There was a ton of us and we didn’t have money, so she taught us the ways of thrift and vintage shopping– she stressed that there was nothing wrong with that. It was fun!”
Working at the store on and off around the age of 13 was a cherished way to spend time with Doreen, “With so many kids we didn’t have a lot of alone time.” Aside from planting the seeds of her retail career, her mom taught Morning Dove about crystals and home remedies for curing all that ails you. The local doctor even tabbed her, “Doctor Vitamin.” Way ahead of her time, Doreen was conscientious and taught her family that, “You do the things that are better for the world.”
When Morning Dove was 19, she was a store manager at American Eagle Outfitters while she attended college. “Sometimes I walk through one when I am in a mall, and that smell!” she laughed.
She learned good skills on the job and became very close and sparky friends with one of her employees, Kellen. She swears they kept everything on the up and up for one year until she quit, “Because it was against the rules to have an American Eagle relationship. And, oh my god! Now we’ve been together half our lives!”
“There was a ton of us and we didn’t have money, so [my mom] taught us the ways of thrift and vintage shopping– she stressed that there was nothing wrong with that. It was fun!”
That job obviously worked out well, but there were others where she witnessed some really bad boss behavior, “Just a cruel misuse of power. Not treating people like human beings, just as a way to serve their own self interests, to help them get from point A to point B. Then [the employees] are disposable once the company gets what it wants. No respect.” As Doreen always taught her: you just don’t treat people that way, because it’s wrong.
Morning Dove and her American Eagle Outfitters beau, Kellen, moved to Portland in 2005, sealing the deal and getting married in 2009.
While working with her, Doreen impressed a good value system upon her. And Morning Dove says working at the gift shop (now closed) at Multnomah Athletic Club starting in 2009, “prepared me the most for owning.” There she was a mentee to both Cookie, who was known around town as an incredible artist who did elaborate displays for all the seasons, and the store manager, Tonya, who showed her the ropes on buying trips.
Laughing, Morning Dove recalls that early on, Cookie, a decade-plus employee of the MAC, would look at her displays and bluntly say, “Let me just show you what would look better.” Morning Dove appreciated the challenge – and she understood that the wonderful Cookie saw more in her. “What would it look like if someone was going to have it displayed at their home? How would they want that to look? How would they want it to make them feel?” These questions helped Morning Dove see a deeper art in display work that remains a huge influence in how she merchandises Coral Story Beauty.
Morning Dove had us smiling and giggling at Coral Story Beauty. Shop Morning Dove’s look here.
The skin issue that led to the store concept first occurred in 2013 while Morning Dove was pregnant, she left MAC once she gave birth to her son. The rash came back again about 18 months postpartum, which was flummoxing to her doctor. It was awful and itching and persistent, and being a new mom is hard enough without dealing with daily skin pain. Her doctor prescribed steroids which made it go away for awhile, but it came back with a vengeance. This is the point when she caved and returned to her original source of healing, her mom’s “hippie” ways. And she joked that you don’t necessarily want to go back to what you grew up with, but sometimes you gotta ask Dr. Vitamin. Her mom posed the all important question, “What kind of crap are you putting on your skin?” It’s hard to sometimes admit that your mom has a salient point.
Morning Dove sleuthed the internet to find products without irritants, testing a ton. With the switch to crap-free ingredients, along the holistic approach of her acupuncturist and naturopath, the rash finally healed in about a month. Her self-schooling led to understanding the world of totally organic products – not just skincare, but finding makeup lines with a full line of skin shades and high quality, “Because why would you put makeup that’s full of crap on skin you’ve healed?”
After she found relief from her rash, over a few years, her friends and family started asking for advice and trying the things she suggested. The products helped and people were loving them. It naturally followed that they started saying, “You’ve worked in retail forever. Why don't you just open up your own shop?” And Morning Dove thought, “Oh! I guess I could, I know the way it all works!” Kellen is his own boss at Droid Life, a tech news site, and he was all for it. Morning Dove speaks frequently about his support and passion in opening up the store.
Though she has been in business since 2018, first as a pop up in Lake Oswego, after a long search she found a lease opening in her ideal location on Division at the beginning of 2020, “right in the heart of the city, I knew I had customers from Gresham and North Portland and I wanted to be easily accessible.” With Kellen’s urgings, they got the online shop up and running to sync with the opening, and in a stroke of fate he completed the site with no idea a pandemic was a month away. The shop has a comfortable vibe with a beautiful selection of makeup, gifts, and skincare to hydrate and heal along with other skin treats. And, of course, a sweet variety of crystals that she consults with Doreen about.
Morning Dove’s own story grew in other unexpected ways as a shop owner. Often, throughout her life and before the marches in 2020, people would look at her, pause, and ask the dreaded, What are you? – or equally awful, after learning her name, people asked, “‘Oh, so I bet you got free college?”
Since the marches, she says most people have learned it’s invasive to ask those types of questions. “All these people of color, this is what we've been dealing with our whole entire lives.” Still something clicked, and she felt a release of some of the lifelong trauma from having her identity up for debate. There was an opening-up space for her to stand more solidly in her Native roots, letting go of the obtrusive pressure to say she is half white just to ‘fit in.
She talks to her son about about her hair at her house. Sometimes he’ll complain, “Mooommm, your hair gets everywhere!” Morning Dove tells him, “Your hair is like Mommy’s hair and Mommy’s hair is important to her. She'll always have long hair. Because this is part of our culture.”
She catches herself now feeling, “Oh, I love myself. Oh, I'm proud to have long brown hair. I'm so proud to have a name like mine, I am proud to have brown skin.” She talks to her son about about her hair at her house. Sometimes he’ll complain, “Mooommm, your hair gets everywhere!” Morning Dove tells him, “Your hair is like Mommy’s hair and Mommy’s hair is important to her. She'll always have long hair. Because this is part of our culture.”
Through her connection with the Oregon Native Chamber, where she was recently a featured entrepreneur, she found support during the pandemic she didn’t know existed. She was able to apply for grants – a huge help, since as a one-person shop, she was not eligible for PPP loans. It’s been thrilling for her to become more involved in the organization, and they continue to support her in her upcoming projects. Morning Dove is really looking forward to meeting in person the people she’s been talking with, and what makes her even happier is they are really looking forward to meeting her.
Her inroads in Portland have also drawn her closer to Harry, who runs a non-profit on the reservation, Beauchamp Kitchen (Morning Dove’s maiden name), that feeds anyone who needs it. She says they’ve spoken more about their businesses and family history. Morning Dove recently found out that Harry’s immediate family (her grandparents and his siblings) were part of the The Indian Relocation Act of 1956. The family members were sent to Los Angeles as a form of failed settler colonialism that sought to assimilate Native people into larger cities. A misguided effort to terminate reservations. After a few months, Harry’s family was relieved to return to their beloved community at Fort Peck reservation.
By following her own story of healing her skin, Morning Dove was led on a journey to open up her own shop and stand proudly in that skin.
PRODUCED BY FRAYN MASTERS
PHOTOS BY AARON LEE
You can book an appointment online at Coral Story Beauty to reserve your space to talk all things skin with Morning Dove. This google reviewer said it best, “[Morning Dove] took the time to truly understand my needs and recommend products that would work for, not just my skin, but my life and comfortability with makeup!”