Over the years Deirdre Hooker and her wife, Tawann, always talked about opening a barbershop as a way to provide a legacy for their son Marcus, who has a passion for cutting hair.
But those conversations became a necessity when Hooker, after 25 years with Motorola, lost her job as a purchasing agent last year.
"I just kind of was at a loss trying to think of what I would do once my end date came," Hooker said.
Her son's interest in barbering became a motivating factor to turn talk into action. Hooker began researching the male side of the hair care industry. She learned the different blades barbers used to cut hair and different lines of male hair care products. A few months later, Hooker opened Bladez Barbershop, 745 Garfield in Oak Park in May. To drum up business the barbershop will host a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Friday July 11.
"We're trying to get the word out that we are here," Hooker said.
Bladez is not your typical barbershop. The former Oak Park couple described the shop's muted grey and black interior as a "man cave" that will make any man feel pampered. Bladez offers the regular barbershop accoutrements: reasonably priced haircuts – ranging from $17 to $25, hot towel shaves, facial cleansers and $10 kids haircuts. But Bladez is also the only shop in the area offering private spa male manicures and pedicures.
"I decided to try that as a niche instead of a plain barbershop," Hooker said, noting that men would get manicures and pedicures, but in a males-only setting. "I just wanted to bring a different feel, a more contemporary, comfortable feel not only for men but families to bring their kids."
"You also wanted to bring something unique to the barbering business," added Tawann Jackson Hooker who supported her wife's decision to start the business which has become a family affair. She works as the nail tech doing the manicures and pedicures.
"She had a great idea and we are partners in life," Jackson-Hooker said. "It is important for me to see her happy and successful. Everything we do we do together and as a family."
Although business is off to a slow start, Hooker wants to expand the shop's offering to include men-only health and wellness seminars once foot traffic picks up.
"I want this to be a one stop destination for men when they come and get their hair cut," Hooker said. "I just want to be that place in the community where they can come to get information."
"It's their spot," Jackson-Hooker added.
Hooker hoped to capitalize on Oak Park's diversity but that has proven to be a challenge. Although black-owned, Hooker stressed her three-man barber team can cut all hair types -- both blacks and whites.
"With us being black they might hold us to one certain style but you got to let them know in the door that we can cut all kind of hair. We went to school for it," said Don Davis, 20, who started cutting hair in the eighth grade and has a knack for cutting shadow fades and bald fades.
"It's a good shop, a good place," added Davis, a North Lawndale resident.
That's what also sets Bladez apart. Hooker described the atmosphere as family-oriented where the young men help each other and grow in their profession. Barbers, she said that are on a hustle wouldn't fit well here. For Hooker, the shop is a launching pad for her barbers to start their own shops. She said she plans to provide additional master barber classes so her barbers can keep up with changing hair trends.
"These young men are starting to become my sons as well because they take my scolding. I just want them to do well," Hooker said.
While the barber shop came out of necessity, it has a deeper purpose for Hooker. She wanted to ensure a legacy for her son – something he could flourish in. The couple, who now lives in Westchester, always kept their son in different activities but nothing really grabbed him until barbering. Curtis Hooker latched onto it because it was hands on and he works well that way, the couple said.
"Once I saw that he had a passion for barbering that kind of sparked the idea for me," Hooker said. "We just really thought that having a barbershop would also secure a place for him for employment and something that he can possibly take over and expand as he gets older."
Curtis Hooker called it a "nice" gesture for his mothers to open a barbershop for him. He said it made him feel "loved." But he said his main objective is building up his clientele. He added that he likes barbering because he wants to make people feel and look good.
"It feels good to get someone out the chair and have them feel good about themselves," said the 22-year-old who will complete barber college next month. "Everybody wants to look nice."
Bladez Barbershop is looking for additional barbers. For more information, visit www.Bladezbarbershop.net or call 708-613-8082.
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