Clip art: Cutting edge barbershop creates a buzz in Fort Worth

Betty Dillard Jonathan Morris is on a mission to create a better grooming experience for men. “Going to the barbershop should be more than an errand. It should be an experience,” he said. “Fort Worth gentlemen want a cool spot to get a great haircut at an affordable price, receive quality service and build lasting relationships. We’ve built that place for them.”

Morris isn’t a barber but he does know what he wants in a barbershop. The 30-year-old new business owner is an ad man at Dallas’ Agency Entourage, a digital marketing firm where he leads a team of strategists and content creators. He lives in Fort Worth. When he couldn’t find a barbershop in either Big D or Cowtown that met his needs, he decided to flex his entrepreneurial – and tonsorial – muscles and create his own. “I believe in this city,” he said, “and in young people doing entrepreneurial things in this city.”

Morris’ Fort Worth Barber Shop opened in October at 3529 Lovell Ave. and business is clipping along at a steady pace. “I know. How does a guy who’s not a barber come up with the idea for a barbershop,” he said. “I just wanted to find a shop I liked. I drove around and couldn’t find any shops I liked. They didn’t know how to cut black hair, the conversation in the shop was not what I wanted to be a part of, or the layout was wrong. I saw things I liked and lots of things I didn’t like. So I started kicking around the idea of what would my barbershop look like. What kind of barbershop do I like?” Morris’ research for his better barber business took him across the country. He took cues from Baxter Finley Barber & Shop in West Hollywood and Fellow Barber in Brooklyn. He watched YouTube videos to see what’s trending in barbering today. “What’s cool in this industry is not in the chain shops,” he said. “Fort Worth is large enough to support what I believe is a quality, traditional barbershop that also knows how to market itself. I figured, given my background in marketing, I know how to position brands online. I can apply that traditional barbershop feel to what we want to do – a shop that knows how to use social media and knows how to position itself online.”

Highly visible on a busy corner intersection across from Flying Fish and Railhead Smokehouse restaurants just outside the Cultural District, Fort Worth Barber Shop couldn’t get any manlier. It’s housed in a former auto repair shop with two overhead garage doors that roll up in good weather. Inside, past the small barber pole, the transformed space designed by Doug PlesKovitch of WRARE Fort Worth is open, warm and inviting. Industrial-style lamps illuminate six granite-topped work stations. Grooming products include 18.21 Man Made pomades, pastes and shampoos from Bedford and Dopp kits from W Durable Goods of Fort Worth, all displayed on open wood shelving. Movie posters (Citizen Kane is Morris’ favorite old film) and vintage product ads pop against the painted white brick walls. Down another length of wall is one of Morris’ favorite quotes from Benjamin Elijah Mays: “Whatever you do strive to do it well that no man living and no man dead and no man yet to be born can do it better.” Mays was a president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where Morris studied business administration and management. Another quote, this one from Ralph Waldo Emerson, inspires the back office. A 20-foot-long table with barstools takes center stage down the length of the shop. A friend of Morris’ in Atlanta made the table and drove to Fort Worth to deliver it. The table-bar and a plush leather sofa, along with classic music and big-screen TV, lend themselves to social engagement – both online and face to face.

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“I want customers to come in and meet each other and strike up conversations around the bar,” Morris said. “Most shops are for guys who view getting a haircut as an errand – get in and get out. I feel like we’re creating a space for conversation. We want to be a place where conversations happen and a place where people are meeting people and where relationships start. We’ve created an environment that fosters that.” Shop manager Jennifer Felli, who admits she’d never been in a barbershop before, says people open the door and are surprised at what they find. “They’re not expecting a cool environment like this,” she said. “Jonathan had a very clear vision and was able to make it come to life. People feel like it’s a place where they want to be. They get a great haircut and are even happier being here. A hot towel shave and they’re on cloud nine.”

Morris and his wife, Katherine, donor relations officer at Lena Pope Home Inc., used some of their personal savings to open the barbershop. He says one of the challenges with the startup is finding qualified barbers who can cut different types of hair. Fort Worth Barber Shop currently has two licensed barbers who offer haircuts as well as hot towel shaves with a straight razor and beard trims. The shop’s first barber, Johnathan Razo, grew up in the business and trained at Fort Worth’s Williams Barber College. His grandfather owns Sundance Hair Stylists in downtown Fort Worth. “It’s what I wanted to do,” Razo, 27, said. “My grandfather is in his 70s but still has a passion for barbering. I wanted to follow in his footsteps because of his love for barbering and his passion for it.” Morris says he is committed to creating a space that he couldn’t find, “which is a multicultural place that where anybody who walks through that door can get a haircut,” he said. “We’ve seen white, black and Hispanic guys, even bald guys, which you don’t expect. We have everyone from young professionals to older gentlemen. Some have never had a hot towel shave before. “Moms come in with their kids, wives with their husbands, girlfriends with their boyfriends. We wanted to create a space where a wife or mom feels just as welcome as a man.”

Active in the nonprofit community, Morris is communications chairman for Lena Pope Home Young Professional Advocates. His charitable efforts extend to the barbershop, which offers free haircuts for the boys of H.O.P.E. Farm, a leadership program guiding fatherless boys in Fort Worth to become men of integrity. Morris’ uncle is Gary Randle, H.O.P.E. Farm founder and executive director. His father, Michael Morris, runs the organization’s Como location. “We send men out of here looking great so we want to make sure our boys are well groomed and look good as well,” Morris said.