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article imageOp-Ed: Barbershop school is making a resurgence, at least in South City Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Sep 21, 2013 in Small Business
South San Francisco - While there has been a tremendous shift in the economy since the recession of 2008, there are some professions and businesses that continue, even when consumers are frugal. This can be said of the hair styling industry.
The Bay Area Hair Institute on El Camino Real at Arroyo Drive was pleased to tell this reporter while on assignment for the Peninsula Progress that the barber school is celebrating its first year anniversary. "We officially opened our doors the week of Labor Day of 2012," said Director and owner Lawrence Summers." Co-owner and Assistant Director Chris Diez noted that BAHI "is the first of its kind in San Mateo County and of course a first for South San Francisco." Both Diez and Summers mentioned that they liked the location because it is close to BART and "that was a priority in our location search because we are here to serve the entire Bay Area," said Diez.
As barbers in training like Lorenzo Kearney, the opportunity to learn a trade is in demand. He and his fellow students were busy attending to customers hair and chatting back and forth, while Diez explained, "there is a resurgence of the barbershop." "Barbers offer a specialized skilled service that is person to person and is a genuine need and can't be out-sourced." According to Inc. 5000 magazine, cosmetology and barber schools was the No. 1 fastest growing industry in 2011. And, the magazine also reported that according to he National Association of Barber Boards of America, the number of licensed barbers grew by 10 percent during 2009 to 20011, from 225,000 to 245,000.
Diez also noted the "recession-proof" aspects of the profession. "Once a barber gets his license and builds his clientele, he can make a pretty-good living at it." And when a person is pleased with a barber or hairstylist, "they come to appreciate that and keep coming back, because everyone likes to have hair cut or styled in the way that pleases them and that looks good on them," Diez said.
"Men are often loyal to a barber they like and trust," Diez said. Kearney then added, as he said, "it's not a vanity thing. It is important to look your best and when you find someone that you trust who cuts and styles your hair just right, then that is what matters most." "We are here to please the customer," said Kearney. And, some say that is why there is a resurgence because barbers appeal to people's yearning for good customer service.
The skill of the barber goes back centuries when barbers did more than just cut hair. "In ancient times they performed forms of surgery and dentistry," said Diez. The word barber comes from the Latin word "barba" meaning beard.
In the 18th to 20th Century barbershops were part of everyday life and was the place where men went to not only get a haircut and a shave but to catch up on the local news about town. It was at this time that professional schools for barbers as we know them today were established.
Diez noted that during the 1970's and '80s was when the "hair cutting places" became the norm offering a hair cut and hairstyling for everyone at a set price. "The problem with that as I see it is that the hair stylist becomes like a fast-food restaurant, not much room for creativity or catering to what the customer wants."
Lorenzo Kearney is presently enrolled at the Bay Area Hair Institute in South San Francisco.  I like...
Lorenzo Kearney is presently enrolled at the Bay Area Hair Institute in South San Francisco. "I like what I do, said Kearney, and while maybe some time in the future I might go into another field like environmental engineering, I have this profession and skill which will always be a part of my life."
"A no nonsense haircut at a no nonsense price," is what chiropractor David Ressler looks for and that is why he likes going to a barber shop. His practice is located almost next-door to BAHI. He prefers a barber because it is "without all the perfume and extravagance that gets pushed on you by a fancy hairstylist," he said. Yet, a barbershop can offer a man something that even the most popular or high-end hair-cutting place cannot, a shave. Kearney was eager to offer a shave and to include all the amenities, like shaving cream and a hot towel, if the customer wanted it.
At BAHI students are trained to always seek to please the customer with only what the customer wants. In the past year, BAHI has provided training for 10 graduates. "And almost all of them have gone immediately into the work force as a barber," said Diez.
That is the aim of the school to not only have their graduates ready to take the state licensing exam but upon getting their barber license, to be able to go right to work.
Lawrence Summers and Chris Diez opened the Bay Area Hair Institute the week of Labor Day last year i...
Lawrence Summers and Chris Diez opened the Bay Area Hair Institute the week of Labor Day last year in 2012.
The 10 to 12 month program costs $8,000 and financial aid and installment plans are available. The only other school in the area is Marinello's Schools of Beauty in San Mateo. "In fact, said Diez, when we were applying for our business license with the County of San Mateo, the county clerk wanted to know what a barber school was, so we said, "we offer what Marinello's does only we focus just on barbering."
Marinello's in addition to its beauty, esthetician and cosmetology, also offers a 15-month course in barber school. Like BAHI, Marinello's established over 110 years ago, builds its curriculum of 1600 hours or more around making sure students are able to meet state licensing requirements. Marinello's tuition for barber school is $19,000 for the 15 months. Yet, that includes everything, including equipment, like clippers, accessories, etc. And, like BAHI, Marinello's works to ensure graduates are able to enter into the profession right away.
Dr. Ressler's barber, Quang Choi, is owner of 1620 Barbershop less than 10 blocks away. Choi agrees with Diez that there is a resurgence of the barber these days. When asked what he looks for in a new hire for his shop he said, "I look for experience, appearance, and passion."
Choi also considered BAHI's tuition as priced fairly. "I would look at the schools passing rate. The school's job is to help prepare the student for the state's licensing board. If a student passes, said Choi then the school did its job."
"I like what I do, said Kearney, and while maybe in some time in the future I might go into another field like environmental engineering, I have this profession and skill which will always be a part of my life." For more information about Bay Area Hair Institute call 650-952-3034 or visit the web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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