Local Lesbian-Run Barber Shop Provides Refuge for Men
When you think of barbershops, you think of an older time of spinning candy-cane decor and tall shaving chairs.
Women’s hair salons have dominated the market for so many years, but men need haircuts too, and that’s where Reid comes in.
Reid has a pretty diverse background. She has a degree in nursing, specializing in neurosurgery, and an associate’s in business management and marketing, but getting into hair was a natural step for Reid.
“My mother was a fashion designer and seamstress. My grandmother was a florist, always cutting with shears and my mom taught me how to shape eyebrows with a straight razor when I was 8-years-old,” said Reid. “I learned how to cut by watching them, but because my mom was also a nurse I went into nursing instead.”
When Reid came back to Richmond, she wanted to start a new career path. “I didn’t want to go back into nursing. My tattoos didn’t really fit the corporate world so I decided to go to barber school. Once I graduated and finished up my apprenticeship I opened up Refuge For Men.”
Reid said she’s got good reason to get in the business of men’s hair – when she was in college she was bucking trends and keeping her own hair style against the grain. “In the ‘90s… women didn’t really wear short hair, I would go to the barbershop, and you always wanted to keep it looking nice because there was a perception of a woman with short hair back then.”
Reid liked to keep it short and well-kept. She’d get a cut twice a week, but she learned to appreciate more than just the clip, she said she enjoyed being there.
“Working at a salon, I saw how guys with longer hair felt when they would come in and they kind of felt weird,” said Reid. “Besides the traditional old school barber shop, there really wasn’t an alternative for them.”
Reid’s background in marketing came in handy when she saw a flyer on her car for Sports Clips. She realized for a franchise to hand out flyers in a certain area they would need to do a market survey, which in turn would help decide if there was a need for it in the area. Since Reid was in the same area she figured her clientele would also be in her neighborhood. “I wanted to take the gimmicky aspect out of it and make it a neighborhood place. I lived in the neighborhood, we were open seven days a week and that’s what really got us our start.”
Reid herself finds it unique being a female African-American barbershop owner, who is also a lesbian.
“I’m a female, and then you factor in race, and sexual orientation, but it’s great,” she said. “Richmond is a wonderful city. Sometimes there can be a perception when guys go get their hair cut, the wives are wary of a woman cutting their hair, but it’s great for business. There’s no problem here.”
Reid believes it’s because of the love of community barber shops like hers are making a comeback. “I think the community’s coming back and traditionally the barbershop was one of the cornerstones of the community. That’s what I try to do with my business model but bring it back with a modern-day twist.”
Once Reid moved to the current Main Street location a little over a year ago she wanted a presence and for her shop to stand out from the other stores. With a lot of foot traffic from VCU students, and the car traffic of Main Street, she decided to commission a mural from artist Hamilton Glass who she actually found on Instagram.
“He did some of the playgrounds at Highland Park, where I grew up, and when I saw he was volunteering his talents I knew that was the type of person I wanted to pay to come and do a mural. I thought about doing the Richmond Mural Project but even though it would’ve been free, you wouldn’t have creative rights, and it wouldn’t be specific to my industry.”
Reid has definitely established a presence within the local community. Refuge is involved with CARITAS , the largest provider of homeless services in the Metro Richmond area. She even goes out of her way to provide her services to the homeless for free.
“I’ve been doing this myself for five years through my church,” said Reid. “It’s part of our business model, it’s not just a haircut. It makes you feel better. It helps the folks seeking service for when they go out seeking job resources and housing and gives them a better appearance which gets them out of that homeless mindset.”
Refuge is also works with the VCU Dental Program, RVA Beard League, Special Olympics, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and many others. “Everything we do involves as much non-profit as for profit,” Reid said.
The shop also sells art from local artists and VCU students inside its location. 100% of the proceeds go to the artist.
“Our goal is to bring awareness,” said Reid. “We are in the art community, to help sell their art, and it also helps decorate our shop.”
They also sell a line of hair care and facial hair products, and peanuts from a local company in Midlothian.
Besides the art work, the shop itself is also locally resourced.
“The barber chairs were found in Hampton, VA from an upholstery company and the owner’s hobby happened to be reupholstering barber chairs.” The chairs are antiques from the 1930’s and 1970’s with an astray built into one of them.
“Everything’s local. I’m all about local,” said Reid.
2014 was quite a year. The LGBTQ community here in Richmond, around the state of Virginia, and nationally and internationally, hit a number of impressive milestones. And we here at GayRVA were proud to report on all the issues we could. So here’s the top stories from GayRVA in the last year – some good [...]December 30, 2014
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