Valerie Byers grew up thinking she wanted to cut women’s hair for a living.
But Byers discovered in school that she preferred male customers, even if she can’t charge quite as much per cut.
“I like talking to guys about sports, and it’s faster-paced than doing women’s hair,” said Byers, owner of The Mens Cut at Hillcrest Plaza. “I like a variety of people sitting in my chair each day, and if I just did women’s hair, I’d only have a few.”
Byers, who grew up in Wichita, opened her shop two months ago in Hillcrest Plaza at 1612 S. George Washington Blvd. She’s been cutting hair in her hometown for 11 years, including stints at Craig Allen’s, Hair Mechanix and College Hill Barber Shop.
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“I was just ready to pay my own rent, and (after) 11 years I finally have the clientele to back it up,” she said.
Byers said her rent isn’t much more than she used to pay in booth fees at her previous locations, although there are, of course, “a lot of other bills” associated with owning a small business.
Byers wanted to stay near College Hill and was able to transform the former office space into one in which both she and her male customers feel comfortable. There’s a flat-screen TV tuned to ESPN Sports Center, blues and jazz music playing in the background and New Orleans Saints gear. (She’s a fan from a stint living in that city.)
Byers tries to set her shop apart from her competitors in a couple of ways. Shampoos come with hot towels and a scalp massage. She offers complimentary neck trims between cuts.
“I just think it’s a little added bonus to come into my shop versus a shop down the street,” she said.
Tanaia Upchurch, a hairdresser with years in the business, joins her in the shop Thursday and Saturday.
Byers plans to market her shop by offering cuts at events around town – “if they can get me electricity.”
She’ll offer clients advice, too, if asked.
“A lot of guys feel like they don’t have that many options,” she said. “When a guy sits in my chair, I always try to help them come up with different ways to do it a little bit different than the normal.”