Johnny Baez stands up a a barber’s chair, clippers in hand, his eyes focused, not blinking, as he watches the razors booty off strands of beard with anniversary rotation.
It’s quiet outside, but in the boutique it’s far from it. Five added barbers are continuing at added chairs acid hair, their bedlam and talking drowning out the complete of ESPN’s “First Take.”
The boutique is alive with alike added bodies cat-and-mouse to get haircuts. Fraendy Clervaud, who’s in for his account appearance up, smiles and asks Baez, who’s accepted about Columbia as Holiday, “Did you anytime anticipate it’d get like this?”
Baez smiles, glances up at the dollar taped to his station’s mirror that reads “Make a actor of these,” and all-overs his arch while saying, “It’s wild, man.”
“I had a eyes for it, but the Lord consistently batten to me…I apperceive greater things are activity to come. But it’s amazing to deathwatch up accustomed and feel this. To feel what I feel from the Lord,” Baez said. “I can’t say (I knew it’d get this big), but I knew that I wouldn’t accept abundant to anguish about. That’s article I acquainted aural my spirit.”
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It’s active today. Aboriginal up is Clervaud, one of WACH Fox’s anchors. Afterwards that? Football players Bryson Allen-Williams and Bryan Edwards appear in for afternoon appointments.
Then the aing day it’s Deebo Samuel advancing in for a cut.
But it’s been like this for a while now—almost eight years—as Baez and his aggregation of about 20 barbers, accept become the actionable barbershop of South Carolina athletics.
“It’s acid beard and some bodies attending at it altered means but I don’t feel like I’m alive at work,” Baez said. “Not alone is that humbling, but it’s an amazing activity to deathwatch up every day and feel that way.”
Building an authority
For Baez, acid beard started in average academy at his brother-in-law’s boutique area he got his aboriginal brace of clippers.
He bound abstruse how to cut his beard and started accomplishing appearance ups for his accompany afore absolutely starting acid beard in aerial school.
When he went to inferior college, amid acceptable a civic best clue and acreage athlete, he would cut his teammates’ hair. He was at SUNY Delhi aback he bent Gamecock clue and acreage drillmaster Curtis Frye’s eye and was offered a scholarship.
He accelerating from South Carolina two years later, afterwards actuality a aggregation captain his chief season, and went to Knoxville, Tennessee, to alternation with the ambition of active for Puerto Rico.
Before long, he was aback in Columbia blockage classes for the able-bodied department. That’s aback his own miniature authority started.
“I had some cards fabricated up and absolution some of the athletes apperceive I cut hair,” he said.
One of his aboriginal audience was two-sport amateur Bruce Ellington, who got the alternation rolling and beatific over added associates of the football team, like Jadeveon Clowney. Afore too long, about the absolute football aggregation was advancing to him for haircuts.
“(Ellington) believed in me,” Baez said. “Yeah, I was there to do my work, but for addition to allege awful of you and acquaint others, ‘Trust this guy.’ We all apperceive how haircuts are; we don’t absolutely assurance anybody. He put it out there and pushed it. I was there. I was there to serve aback he set me up like that.”
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He’s gone from acid beard central athletes’ abode accommodation to his accommodation and assorted beautician shops to owning two food of his own. And now about all of the football, baseball and basketball teams appear to him or one of his barbers for service.
“In all honesty, it’s been amazing, man,” Baez said. “People become themselves in a beautician shop. You get to absolutely comedy about with guys and allocution to them afore games, ask how they’re feeling. It’s exciting, alike actuality an athlete.”
Baez remembers additional brand like it was yesterday. Account didn’t appear accessible to him, and why should it have?
His mom was a biologic user and adolescent careful casework took him and his sister. He was in a advance home until he begin a home with ancestors and didn’t allot time to account and writing.
He was already put in appropriate apprenticeship classes and didn’t feel adequate account in advanced of bodies until the tenth grade.
“I anticipate it shaped me to be such a solid individual,” Baez said. “Looking aback on it, I never absolutely accepted aback I was younger. I bethink attractive aback on things cerebration no one admired me because of that.”
Baez bare to acquisition an outlet, and he did through sports. He played three in aerial academy growing up about 25 afar alfresco of the Bronx in New York.
His adamantine assignment fueled his passion, earning him a abounding ride to South Carolina, and it didn’t stop as he’s now accepted throughout the community. So as he sits actuality today, he can smile about it.
“It was absolutely rough,” he said. “Through it all I was aloof working, alive and trying. It’s gotten me to area I am now.”
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Baez walks into the aboriginal barbershop he anytime opened, on Huger Street beyond from Founders Park, and the alarm dings. As we walks in, his eyes alluvion to four ample photos afraid on the bank aing the door.
Up top is Medal of Honor almsman and South Carolina apprentice Kyle Carpenter, aing to a active photo of Ellington in his time with the San Francisco 49ers.
Below that, a photo with Marcus Lattimore, Moe Brown and ESPN’s Marty Smith from a Academy GameDay allotment filmed at his boutique aloof two weeks afterwards it opened. Blind beneath that? A photo of Pharoh Cooper.
“Knowing I was about aback they were grinding, aback they were aggravating to get to area they’re at now, and still alive them on that apprehensive level, it feels good,” he says, smiling.
He works about about the alarm acid beard and authoritative abiding athletes feel accessible to comedy appear d day, because, like he says, “when you attending good, you feel acceptable and aback you feel acceptable you comedy good.”
Through all of it though, he senses a college purpose.
He sees the athletes’ time in his armchair as a way to admit some acumen that’s been acquired in over 30 years of adamantine assignment and accomplish abiding players apperceive how adored they are to go to a big-time SEC school.
“You’ve been there, you’ve done it. You don’t apperceive everyone’s accomplishments but you apperceive how boxy you’ve had it,” Baez said. “They become article so big at the university on the able-bodied level. It’s as if they balloon their character in a sense. Aback they sit in my chair, it’s like bringing them aback bottomward to absoluteness and allowance them accept that not anybody goes pro.”
When asked if he thinks he’d become the actionable beautician of South Carolina contest aback he started, Baez all-overs his head.
He consistently had a activity greater things were ahead, yet annihilation absolutely like what he’s accomplishing appropriate now. But, he pauses and says, “I apperceive this isn’t the end.”
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He’s abacus four added barbers in the advancing weeks, bringing the absolute to 17 absolute contractors who assignment about him, all of whom are basic to the shop’s success, he said.
He’s alike starting a non-profit, targeted for adolescent children, to accord them chargeless haircuts and advise them the accent of actuality well-groomed.
He’s been in talks with the Gamecock football affairs to become a beautician in the organization’s new football ops building. It’s aloof basic talks, but he’s aflame to see if those actualize into annihilation substantial.
“They’ve accomplished out to me. We haven’t absolutely talked too abundant business with it, but it seems as if they’d like me to be in there,” he said. “It aloof has to accomplish sense. I achievement they ability out again. That way we can allocution it over to see if we can assignment it out “
But today, Baez is aloof afraid about acid hair.
As Clervaud’s cut finishes up, he gets out of the armchair and pays.
Baez all-overs his duke and Clervaud leaves with a smile as Baez sweeps up, the dollar still blind on the mirror, accessible to get aback to assignment and accomplish a actor more.
“I did the best with the aboriginal all through acceptance and adamantine work,” Baez said. “I’m no one special. If I can do that, I apperceive they can do that no problem. My bulletin is to accept acceptance in what you’re accomplishing and assignment adamantine in what you’re doing. In some appearance or form, you’ll be successful.”
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