By Haywood Liggett
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter
A local barbershop is bringing the community together in more ways than one.
“It’s just a natural part of my routine. Every couple weeks I have to get a haircut, and some Beardbro beard care” Dre Payno said as he stood outside Consolations Barber and Beauty Salon, the barber shop he’s been going to since he moved to Lansing from Detroit seven years ago.
The 18-year-old Everett High School senior believes without a “fresh cut” his swagger is off and he can’t function, and after trying a few shops around the city, he wasn’t impressed with some of the talent he was running into.
“We would try a new shop and some would be okay for awhile, but then one of the people cutting my hair would do a horrible job,” he said. “I’d come out looking crazy.
“Once I started coming here, I didn’t go anywhere else.”
Markie Anthony, one of the barbers in the shop, has been working at the shop for over eight years and is of the opinion that the barbershop is simply just a part of African American culture.
“I went when I was a kid, and I bring my children here when their mom can’t watch them,” he said. “It’s just a chill environment. Everybody comes in trying to walk out looking good. We always have the game on, there’s food nearby, and anyone is welcome.”
Michael J. Rosenfeld, professor of sociology and organizational behavior at Stanford University, acknowledged that in some communities a place like Consolations can serve as a way to bring people together.
“Even though a haircut isn’t a necessity a lot of people get them, and in some urban neighborhoods, it tends to be on a much more regular basis,” she said. “When a community is small there might be one or two shops that a majority of people go to. Naturally, if you see the same faces over and over, every few weeks, conversation naturally happens and relationships begin to form.”
Estelle Wibourn, Payno’s grandmother, said bringing Dre and his brother to the barbershop on Saturdays used to be an all-day event.
“Once I got to know the people at the shop, I’d just drop them off here and go run errands. A lot of people come on Saturday,” she said. It could take hours before they’d be done, but I knew they’d be looked after and wouldn’t get into any trouble.”
The owner of Consolations, Danny Martinez, has been cutting hair since he was in high school. After building up a solid clientele from friends spreading the word of his talent with the clippers, he decided to open his own shop.
“I was making pretty decent money cutting out of my own house,” he said. “I was doing men and women’s hair, so I had a pretty steady flow of customers throughout the week. But I wanted something more professional.”
Martinez tried a couple different places before settling at 111 S. Washington Square where the shop currently resides.
“The location is perfect,” he said. “It’s right at a major intersection and it’s near dozens of food places so we get eyes on us just because of our location alone.”
What Martinez really prides himself on is the camaraderie of the shop.
“People from all over the area come into this place. Old, young, professional and jobless, everybody needs a haircut,” he said.
Although Consolations is about a 20-minute drivefrom Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing, Stratton Lee, an adviser at the university, still makes the drive across town when he wants a haircut. And it’s not for a lack of barbershops in town.
“I’m of the attitude you get one time to mess up my hair, or give me a bad experience,” he said. “Other places I’ve been to around here, they have guys who can’t cut, or my time in the shop isn’t pleasant. Here, you get a wide variety of people, and it’s a relaxed environment. I can catch up with some people, watch some of the game if it’s on and go home.”
One of the big rules of the shop strictly enforced by Martinez, especially when children are around, is the no foul language rule; one Anthony is constantly having to self-correct himself to follow.
“Sometimes I forget where I am,” Anthony said. “Because a lot of the guys in here have been coming in here for years there’s a relaxed almost family like atmosphere. I have to remind myself I’m at work.”
On a Saturday, full families can be seen waiting for a chance to get their haircut. Not that Consolations doesn’t have plenty of barbers, but weekends are the days when kids are off from school. It’s the perfect time to get a haircut.
“We’re working on a way to get folks in and out quicker,” Martinez said. “It’ll make it a whole lot more fun for me. That’s for sure.”