Behind the closing of Shen Beauty, a Brooklyn boutique

Monica Dawidowicz, a beautician who worked at Shen from 2020 to 2023, also said that Ms. Richards had a habit of yelling at employees. “Sometimes, literally, she was screaming at the top of her lungs,” Ms. Dawidowicz said. Carrie Lindsey, another former employee, said working at Shen took a toll on her mental and physical health. “It’s difficult because there have been good times too,” Ms Lindsey said. “It’s a typical abusive relationship.”

Ms. Richards made no comment about whether she yelled at employees or used an offensive term.

Samson Smith said he enjoyed some of his time working at Shen. But he stopped after several years, because, he said, he had “had enough”. He added that he had heard Ms. Richards make disparaging references to people of color. “My dad always told me not to hire fat people or black people because they’re lazy,” Mr. Smith, who is white, recalled telling Ms. Richards.

“It was like she was saying that to test my reaction,” he added.

Another employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal sensitive conversations, recalled Ms. Richards making a similar comment.

Ms. Richards wrote in an email to the Times that she had “never avoided hiring people of color or insulting someone because of their race or size because it would look bad.” goes against everything I believe in, and my commitment to diversity and inclusion is backed by the numbers: most of my hires chosen by me personally were people of color, and the majority of our staff were people of color or who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Some employees described being touched inappropriately by a manager at work. Mr Smith said this manager slapped his butt; Ms Willson said the principal groped her breasts. After employees complained to Ms. Richards, the manager was fired. But Ms. Richards eventually brought the former manager back to the store.

Ms. Richards admitted that she fired and rehired the employee in question, adding: “My initial instinct was correct and I regret giving her a second chance.”