Nicholas Gentry said he knows all too well about the challenges of being a broke college student. Gentry, from Odessa, Texas, became a Howard Bison three years ago, and says he has become intimately familiar with ramen noodle recipes, 2-for-1 restaurant specials, and borrowing his roommates’ books to stay on budget. One thing Gentry will not have to forego in future, though, is a fresh . . . and free haircut.
On Aug. 25, Howard’s Charles Drew Hall cut the ribbon on a new barbershop, installed to provide free haircuts to students whose budgets occasionally fail to cover grooming. The facility, which will open for 15 hours each week, also provides a mentorship program for aspiring entrepreneurs from Howard alumnus LaMont Russell.
“Howard University remains committed to providing exceptional services and experiences to its students,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement. “This barbershop is an excellent amenity and we appreciate the work Corvias has done to meet our expectations.”
In addition to mentorships, the barbershop, along with Corvias, an East Greenwich, R.I.-based organization that partners with higher education and government institutions nationwide to solve their most essential systemic problems, is scheduled to host “Barbershop Talks” on modern issues, informational sessions, and special programs throughout the academic year.
“The shop creates a small community within the dormitory that would strengthen ties between students – especially those of us from out of state who don’t meet new people easily,” Gentry told the AFRO. “It is also convenient and free, which helps me immensely.”
The total cost of the barbershop, according to a statement from Howard University, was approximately $25,000, with constructions costs covered through institutional investors as part of the University’s partnership with Corvias. Other funding was provided by Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation (RBCF) – a charitable non-profit for public benefit – which in 2016, operated four grooming projects at agencies in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County. The projects produced a combined total of 380 haircuts, seven hairstyles, and 39 other hygienic services to a total of 284 individuals.
“We discovered that accessibility to ongoing grooming services has been a long-standing concern for students who live on campus,” said Cradle, managing director of RBCF. “Addressing grooming related barriers in our communities is a part of our mission and we are very proud to play a role in providing this service to the student residents at Howard University.”
Evan Ellen, community management director with Corvias, said the barbershop constitutes more than mere grooming for students, but a place of learning and fellowship. “The installation of this barbershop goes beyond providing haircuts and grooming services to students,” says Evan Allen, community management director with Corvias. “Historically, barbershops have played an essential role in promoting unity and tradition in our communities, all characteristics that we want to continue to uphold with the residents in Drew and Cook Hall.”
The barbershop is only one of several grooming services launched by Howard students and graduates. HausCall – created by Howard graduates Morgan Winbush, Killian Lewis, and Crystal Allen-Washington – allows busy customers to download their app, and book either on-demand or scheduled appointments for haircuts. Lauded as the Uber of Black male hair grooming, users can track their barber to their locations, make payments and leave tips through the app.