Barbers learn the ropes at shop

Looking from the outside, Clippers maybe appear to be just a barbershop, but upon taking a closer look past the window-tinted entrance into the purple and black color-schemed interior, there is much more to this barbershop franchise than meets the eye. There are lessons to be learned.

The first of the lessons began in Miami Lakes in the first of the Clippers barbershops. There, the then 13-year-old Robert Gayle, owner of Tallahassee’s Clippers, spent his time sweeping the floors and learned the business of the barbershop.

Although he never cut hair, he still had an interest in barbershops.

“I liked the whole barbershop industry,” Gayle said. “Basically, I like putting things together. I like seeing it going from paper to life.”

In April 2000, Gayle opened his own Clippers, located at 1964 W. Tennessee St. For the past six years, this barbershop’s appeal has attracted Tallahassee natives and college students. He said much of his success comes from what he learned at home.

“When I came up here, there was no mass marketing for barbershops. I think it was kind of unheard of. Nobody wasn’t doing it up here,” Gayle said. “I just came up here with a whole different way of marketing.”

Gabriel Lowery, 20, a third-year business administration student from Palmetto has had his hair cut at Clippers for a year. Lowery prefers Clippers over other local barbershops, he said.

“They’re fast; they get you in and out,” he said. “Their edges are really sharp and really clean. They sanitize their clippers good. They don’t leave you with razor bumps.”

Another factor that keeps Lowery coming is the atmosphere.

“It’s a cool barber shop,” he said.”They have big screen TVs. You’re not just sitting in there watching people get cut.”

In January, Gayle opened a second location across from Florida A&M University.

There are about eight students who are barbers at the new location, Gayle said.

He said students who work at his barbershop have to meet a criteria beginning with balancing their school and work schedule.

“To me, it’s determination. You have to be able to balance out both,” he said. “(But) to get in the door, you have to be a good barber.”

Becoming a barber takes time and dedication. The Division of Business and Professional Regulation states that one must complete courses required to “received a minimum of 1,200 hours of training as established by the board, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, the equivalent of completion of services directly related to the practice of barbering at one of the following,” a written and practical exam.

Trevin Melton, 21, a junior health science student from Miami, is one of the student barbers at Clippers. He became interested in barbering because of his father, Melton said.

“My father was a barber, and I used to play with his clippers,” Melton said. He would often practice on his father’s head.

“He would guide me step by step,” he said. “I took it seriously after a while.”

Melton’s love for barbering has been enriched since working at Clippers. Clippers gives him more advertisement, he said. But clientele is not the only aspect Clippers has helped him obtain.

“I’ve learned people skills. Being a barber, you’re a counselor. You deal with different people everyday,” he said. One of the most important lessons he has learned is the business side of barbering, he said.

“This is a great experience for me because it is preparing me for what I want to do in the future,” Melton said, noting he he would like to own his own shop. “I take those skills that I am learning to apply to owning a franchise,” he said.

He said he has learned a lot from Gayle. “He was very helpful with business tips,” Melton said. “I just observe.”

Gayle said what he tries to instill a basic value in his shop.

“You just have to be consistent. I just try to let them know you have to have a good work ethic,” Gayle said.

In five years, he hopes to have five more shops.

“I want clippers to be the next Supercuts. As far as location, as far as being a household name,” Gayle said, “I think I’ve built a foundation not necessarily for myself but for the shop as a whole.”