Changing the World One Haircut at A Time: Skill Cutz
There is a place in Fargo that caters to Mexican hair (and Black hair, and Asian hair, and Caucasian hair too!). People of Color are front and center at this Barber Shop in a very special way; they know how to skillfully cut ethnic hair. Skill Cutz is located 2512 7th Avenue S. Unit 4D, in the strip mall next to the Big Top Bingo. For owners and Master Barbers Brendan LaFrance and Wilguens“Wil” Dort, it matters that they reflect their personal values in their everyday work.
Although Brendan is Caucasian, he’s married to Mexican wife and manager, Leane Guerrero LaFrance. Wil and his brother Dieune “A.J.” Dort are both originally from Haiti, and they understand the importance of having quality care for ethnic hair. Barber, Cedric “Cetti” Allbritton, is also African-American like Wil and A.J and each has made a commitment to providing the ethnic community with the highest quality haircuts along with the most modern techniques and designs. For this commitment to ethnic hair, their business is one-of-a-kind in the Fargo-Moorhead region. And the steady pace of happy repeat customers shows it! Brendan is happy to serve people from so many ethnic backgrounds.
“We’re very proud of the diversity of people we serve at Skill Cutz. For example, on my schedule today I’m serving customers that are Bosnian, Black, Mexican, Asian, White, Somali, and Sudanese. And that’s just today!”
The full service barber shop also offers every imaginable cut and shave in a variety of styles, including use of straight razors. They do mohawks, faux-hawks, fades, bald fades, blowouts, flat tops, tapers, and the newest designs. Old or young, the barber chairs at Skill Cutz welcome them all; even women and girls get into shaved cuts with fancy designs. These barbers are constantly updating their skills by attending national hair shows and using online resources so you know your haircut, shave or chin strap will always be modern and cutting edge. But these fellows invest themselves in their work as much as they do in each other; they act like a family. Brendon and Wil both went to Moler Barber School and graduated together in 2007. And the barbers who work for them, A.J. and Cetti, also studied at Moler, started their career at Skill Cutz and have never left, just like many of their steady clients. One of their regulars Sei Wonokay explained why he has been coming to A.J. for years.
“The first time I got my hair cut by A.J. I had good luck that day. Since then he he’s been good luck for me. And, he knows where my hairline is. When I come in here I just sit in the chair. He already knows what I want, plus he’s my friend. I work at the YMCA and he comes in to work out there. He’s not just my barber, he’s my son’s barber too. He’s only 7 years old but he gets excellent service and respect, and he runs up to hug A.J. when he sees him on the street.”
Each barber has their own personality, skills and charm. Wil, the muscle bound co-owner is lightning quick, although his brother A.J. also stakes that same claim to fame. A.J. said it is a good trait for a barber.
“We have to try to work around the lives and busy schedules of our customers. If they are limited on time, on their lunch break or in a rush we fit them in.”
Both brothers are gregarious and bring a joyful “Barber Shop” movie atmosphere to the place. Cetti is the quiet one, but A.J. explains that many customers like the quiet barbers who listen well. Plus he’s really good at tapers. Brendan, always with his easy smile, is known for his excellent design skills and ready ears. “I don’t just care about cutting my customer’s hair. I know my customers by name. I know their families and what’s going on in their lives. And, we care.”
The barbers at Skill Cutz are so passionate about hair it extends into every part of their lives and ripples into the community. Cetti’s a “sports dad” with kids involved in hockey. Wil is involved with Jail Chaplains who help inmates getting out of Cass County Jail find support housing, and jobs. Barbers Will and A.J. came from Haiti, but have lived in the U.S. most of their lives. Yet this hasn’t stopped them from giving back to the people of Haiti, especially following the devastating earthquake in 2010. The barber shop helped raised over $5,000 for earthquake victims. Co-owner Brendan explained why he and the other barbers are so committed to their community.
“I’m always looking for ways to use my talent as a barber to express myself. It’s an art. It can be used to help my family, but also our entire community. The barbers here provide free haircuts to children at the Salvation Army and other places like adoption agencies or for fundraisers for members of the community who are raising money for sick relatives, or people burned out of their homes. We even use our website and social media networks as a way to mobilize our customer base to help people in need and spread important news. We can use our skills as barbers to do much more than just cut hair.”
Brendan admits that it’s a team effort. And a big part of the professionalism, organization and business management has been supported by his wife, Leane Guerrero LaFrance. She’s also been responsible for the design and decor of the barber shop. It’s all these personal touches and teamwork that makes the family of barbers and staff at Skill Cutz so popular to their clientele. Skill Cutz caters to national and international customers as well as celebrities. They’ve been entrusted with famous heads from Cali Swag District, and hip-hop artists like Jeremiah and Chingy. Mexi-Can asked Brendan how he would rate Skill Cutz against other barbers in terms of their expertise in ethnic hair. A regular of many years, Robert Jefferson answered for him.
“I’ll tell you how they rate. There is no place else like Skill Cutz. Skill Cutz is a 10, and everyplace else is a 1. I’m just telling it like it is. He [Brendan] always does a great job. He treats his clientele well. And when I’ve got problems, he listens.”
There are few testimonials so heartfelt as those Mexi-Can heard about Skill Cutz, and the passion of these gentlemen barbers shows in the smiles and great haircuts of their customers!
Skill Cutz is open Mondays from 12-6pm and Tuesdays thru Saturdays from 10am to 7pm. You can find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @skillcutz or check them out online at http://www.skillcutz.com/