From the outside, 65 Southbridge St. in Auburn doesn’t look like much. But upstairs on the second floor, visitors are transported to a bright and colorful other world.
Capture the Moments Selfie Room opened last week, owned and operated by locals Juan and Carmen Rodriguez. The business is the couple’s fifth in the area and the most unique.
“It was a chance we took,” Juan said. “We didn’t expect to get the attention we did.”
The space is divided into several themed areas where visitors can get their picture taken, or take it themselves, with fun backdrops and props. Carmen and Juan plan to change the themes every three months or so, but the current offerings include a pink Barbie-themed room, a Celtics room complete with basketball hoop, a Pac-Man room (Carmen’s favorite) and an area painted with the Tik Tok logo where social media creators can record videos with provided musical instruments or karaoke microphones.
A seasonal setup with a picturesque white armchair is currently decorated for Valentine’s Day, but can be set up for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions.
Each mini-room comes complete with a ring light and phone stand operated by a Bluetooth remote to make it easy to take your own photo, or you can hire local photographer Kaylan Dusoe, who is working with Capture the Moments to offer professional photo packages.
Juan opened his first business, Headliners Barbershop, in 2018 with his son, Juan Jr. Since then, the family has opened two women’s braiding and hair salons, including one right downstairs from the new selfie room, and Gossip Girls nail salon.
Despite their current success, the journey hasn’t been easy. Carmen came to Worcester from Puerto Rico at age 15 to help her sister, who was dealing with health issues at the same time that she was raising her baby. She had almost no money and knew no English at the time.
As an adult, Carmen said she used to work as a decorator and used those skills to help setting up Capture the Moments.
“I never had a birthday party growing up. No celebration, no Christmas, no Christmas tree, none of that,” she said. “I think this is why I love decorating. I like to impress people.”
Juan, too, grew up poor in the Great Brook Valley area of the city. When the two got together 18 years ago, they decided that they would make a better life for themselves.
They work hard to keep business going, visiting each location frequently to make sure everything is running smoothly, and Carmen likes to do all the cleaning at her salon herself instead of hiring a service to make sure everything is up to her standards.
In addition to their five businesses, they were able to purchase a home in Dudley a few years ago.
“We come from the projects, so when people say they can’t do it, I say you can do it, you just have to change your daily habits,” Juan said. “You have to stop letting people tell you you can’t do it. Sometimes because they gave up on their dreams, they tell you you can’t go after yours, and that’s absolutely false.”
What they are able to do now is give back to the community to help others who have had similar experiences. Every year, they offer free back-to-school haircuts for kids, and they also offer low-cost spa days for young girls age 12 and under at Gossip Girls, complete with makeup, nails and pizza.
Carmen said at the most recent event, they had so many people interested that they had to schedule another for Feb. 26.
“I like to help the community because I come from nothing,” she said. “I had nobody to help me, but I want to help people.”
Even on a daily basis, Juan and Carmen said they love seeing the confidence their services give people.
“We love to see people happy because we know how it feels to be unhappy,” Juan said. “When they get their hair done and they’re showing off, that just makes it all worthwhile.”