For Patrice Alexander, slicing hair comes as simply and naturally to him as respiration.
The Toronto man, who owns The Forum Barber Parlour close to Yonge and Finch in Toronto’s North York neighbourhood, has been a barber for practically 30 years, choosing up his first pair of shears at 12 years outdated, he informed World Information one afternoon, laughing as if he couldn’t consider it himself.
One thing else that comes naturally to Alexander, his purchasers say, is speaking and listening — two expertise longtime purchasers, Jonathon Jaundoo and Terry Tse, say Alexander has mastered.
“I come right here for a therapeutic haircut,” 26-year-old Jaundoo informed World Information.
A trustworthy shopper of Alexander’s for 10 years, Jaundoo says he seems to be ahead to his biweekly visits for the haircut, sure, however much more so for the enriching expertise and on-point recommendation he will get from Alexander.
“It’s only a second for me to decompress, to self-care and, you understand, speak to a pal,” Jaundoo stated. “I felt like the one that was slicing me cared extra for me, past the precise service.”
Jaundoo isn’t alone in his sentiments.
“You stroll in and straight away, you understand this man treats you want a pal,” 33-year-old Tse informed World Information, referring to Alexander. “He doesn’t deal with you want a shopper, he greets you, he asks the way you’re doing…. It’s Patrice fostering an atmosphere the place there isn’t any outsider.”
Tse, who has been coming to The Discussion board for eight years, is only one out of an enormous, various shopper base Alexander has constructed up — from star athletes, like NHL gamers Nazem Kadri and Luke Gazdic, to trustworthy regulars who refuse to go wherever else.
Inside his store on any given day, Alexander can usually be discovered ‘chopping it up’ together with his purchasers, whether or not or not it’s discussing the most recent Raptors recreation or dispensing an encouraging phrase right here and there.
And although he’s no ‘actual’ therapist, to lots of his purchasers, he feels that method, they are saying. Alexander has a knack for making them look and really feel good — like they matter.
Canadian skilled hockey defenceman Jordan Subban informed World Information so throughout a Zoom interview one afternoon.
“Patrice makes me look the perfect,” Subban joked when requested why he doesn’t go to some other barber. For Subban, his hockey star huge brother, P.K., and their complete household, it’s greater than Alexander’s sharp slicing expertise that has saved them coming again for the previous 10 years.
“I’m going there early simply so I might sit down and speak (to Alexander) and we might have some actual conversations,” stated Subban.
“It’s simply an atmosphere that he creates that’s inclusive for everyone to be part of that dialog in a method and never really feel dumb, you understand? It’s cool to ask questions and it’s about development.”
A few of Alexander’s purchasers say that inclusivity might be uncommon in most of these areas — so uncommon that some do a double-take once they see Alexander’s Black-owned barbershop in the midst of Toronto’s Koreatown North.
Tse, who’s Chinese language, says he was a kind of, struck by how atypical Alexander’s barbershop was.
“Proper off the bat, as quickly as you stroll in, you see hockey sticks, proper? That’s not regular,” stated Tse. “It’s (additionally) in an space that you could be not sometimes see a barbershop, so proper off the bat, it’s totally different.”
Alexander himself was additionally getting calls from purchasers, uncertain of what ‘sort’ of barbershop he ran.
‘They’re like, ‘Hello, how are you? Is that this The Discussion board? Do you guys lower Black hair? And so they’re form of nervous to say it,” stated Alexander, chuckling.
“Shoppers (would) begin coming in … name and make an appointment, come by (and say), ‘Oh wow, this man is aware of the best way to lower straight hair!’ And that’s at all times been the stereotype, you understand, that Black barbers aren’t actually conversant in straight hair.”
However these are the stereotypes, preconceived notions and ‘containers’ Alexander seeks to problem at The Discussion board Barber Parlour, a spot he ensures lives as much as its title the place a variety of matters might be mentioned — in a respectful method.
Tse says he appreciates the secure atmosphere, feeling snug sufficient to debate actual property and enterprise to heavier matters, akin to race relations and police brutality, with Alexander.
“If I’ve a query, I really feel snug coming to Patrice as a result of he’s not somebody that may be offended by my questions, proper? He can have a candid dialog with me to assist me be taught,” stated Tse.
Tse says it’s not solely conversations with Alexander, but in addition with different purchasers of various backgrounds who come into the store that additional enhances the hair-cutting expertise.
“Coming in right here, you understand simply how a lot we’ve in widespread, proper? We actually like the identical issues, however (could) not understand it as a result of we haven’t had the possibility to speak,” Tse informed World Information. “So having that chance to have a dialog with somebody that you could be not have a dialog with on the road, it modifications your perspective. It opens your thoughts as much as one thing a bit of bit greater than what you’ll get should you weren’t right here.
“I stroll out of right here, I really feel like a greater particular person as a result of I might be extra empathetic.”
For Alexander, that’s the value-add: constructing bridges throughout variations with the hopes of fostering understanding. And he says it begins with listening.
“Enterprise is all about relationships, that’s the way you develop,” stated Alexander. “I inform a number of my purchasers on a regular basis that I respect them most likely greater than they respect me, as a result of each single one who sits in my chair, I’m studying from them.”
And they’re studying from him. Alexander isn’t only a barber, however a TV personality and entrepreneur, most lately launching a brand new plant-based hair product line he created known as The Alexander & Co.
“To say that he mentors, it’s, sure, I can speak to him,” Tse stated of Alexander. “However I’m additionally seeing what he’s doing and that pushes me to do extra…. He’s not simply speaking about it, he’s displaying it to you. It’s very tangible. And I feel it’s one thing that resonates with not solely myself, however with younger Black males, with folks that come into the store and see what he’s doing and know that you just don’t need to be an athlete, a musician or something to achieve success. You possibly can hone your craft, excellent it after which develop.”
For Jaundoo, 10 years’ price of conversations with Alexander, who has mentored him on “all the things from relationships to private issues to enterprise issues,” has made Alexander not solely a trusted confidant, but in addition an accessible illustration of what’s attainable.
“(Alexander) holds himself to a excessive customary and that’s what I would like for myself.”
Subban says it’s Alexander creating an area that enables younger males to be weak, to really feel seen, that’s the difference-maker for him.
“It opens your eyes to indicate you that there are folks that care about what you say and what you’re going via. And you understand, Patrice has at all times, at all times had that atmosphere within the store.”
—with information from Gord Edick
© 2021 World Information, a division of Corus Leisure Inc.
https://globalnews.ca/information/8273092/toronto-koreatown-barber-breaks-down-barriers/ | ‘It modifications your perspective’: Koreatown barber breaks down obstacles, one lower at a time