Looking Good through Tough Times
If there’s one thing most of us learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we all took some of our most basic life routines for granted. Especially when it comes to our hair. Those monthly trips to the barbers halted, our hair just kept growing. And in those early months, as we pivoted from working in-person to working remote, we did our best to manage our appearance during video conferencing. But at some point it became clear—we all really needed a haircut.
One sector of small business that came to a screeching halt during the stay-at-home order was barbers and salons. Marcus Clark, owner of Charlotte Barber and Beard located at the corner of Commonwealth Ave. and The Plaza, was one of these businesses.
“It felt like the end of the world to me,” says Marcus. “I mean, we’re in the business of being very close to other people. When the virus hit, we didn’t take any chances. And I didn’t know what was going to happen next.”
A native of West Palm Beach, Florida, Marcus moved to Charlotte in 2013 and has since developed a loyal clientele. During Phase One of North Carolina’s phased reopening, he remained closed and was concerned that his business wasn’t going to make it. “People throughout the barber community were closing for good. Our options were pretty limited. And I was unable to offer a mobile service because I have children at home. The last thing I wanted to do was bring the virus back to my house. So yeah, it was tough going.”
Since the end of March, his business is down close to 70% from where it was in 2019, but early this summer a friend from the Plaza Midwood Business Association alerted Marcus to the City of Charlotte’s Access to Capital Program. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “But I completed the paperwork and after a few weeks learned that I received it.”
The grant money helped Marcus survive long enough for Phase Two of reopening to begin. “The grant was a lifeline for us to keep the lights on here. When we first reopened, with all safety protocols in place, people lined up to get in a chair. So this grant actually helped serve the community in that way.” he says. “People really needed haircuts.”
A barber since graduating high school, the pandemic has forced Marcus to consider alternatives to bringing his skills to customers. This includes the possibility of buying and outfitting a mobile barber shop where he can go directly to his customers and offer the same comforts of his barber chair as his storefront location. “If anything, this year has taught me that you have to be willing to adapt to survive and thrive,” Marcus says. As far as advice to other entrepreneurs struggling to make it through this unprecedented time, Marcus is blunt,
“Ask for help. I know it’s something that a lot of us aren’t used to doing, but there are people who are willing to help out if you just ask. You’ll see what an amazing community you have when you do.”
A community that looks better now, thanks to Marcus.