Keeping edges sharp and cuts crisp, Universal Cutz is the popular barbershop of the neighborhood. The shop is located on 42nd and Baltimore Avenue. This social center builds bonds between men from diverse backgrounds.
African American, Caucasian, Indian, Vietnamese and Russian men get cuts or hang out for entertaining conversation. Most of the diverse demographics are men attending the local universities and those who live in the surrounding neighborhood. Some clients living in southwest Philadelphia travel at least 15 minutes to get their hair cut by one of the barbers.
Troy Taylor, co-owner, has been cutting hair since 1988. Over his 20-year career, he has worked in many barbershops.
During his training at Tri-City Barber School located on 5901 N. Broad St., Taylor met Leon Chley. After leaving this institution, both men began to work in various local barbershops.
First, the pair started at Hair Artistry from 1990 to 1996. Next, Taylor and Chley cut hair at the Cutting Zone from 1996 to 2001. From this shop, Taylor then operated his own shop with two other associates.
In 2001, Taylor and his partners ran a shop called Bling Bling—which used to be located on 43rd and Pine streets. However, business relationships were not successful. Thus, Taylor saw an opportunity to manage a different shop. That was when, Taylor and Lenwood Washington, co-owner of Universal Cutz, ventured to open a new shop that focused on professionalism, comfort and meeting clients needs. In October 2006, Universal Cutz opened its doors on 42nd and Baltimore Avenue.
“This was a better location. [The shop] is more accessible by bus and trolley,” Taylor said.
Prior to his management at Universal Cutz, Washington had cut hair on and off for 12 years. With the support of his family and Taylor, who is his cousin, encouraged Washington to use his creativity and improve his barber skills.
Spending the past three years at Universal Cutz, Washington has not only cut men’s hair, but he has developed skills to tend to female clients. He can clip dead hair ends and shape up the edges of their necks.
“I like helping the community. Making everyone look good [and] knowing that that’s my work. It makes you feel good to make someone else look good,” Washington said.
Yet client’s sentiments are not the only way to measure success. Based on the number of clients who come back for a cut or conversation, Washington said that the business must be doing something right.
“We were trying to expand and do something different,” Washington said.
To provide styles fitting to his clients wants, Washington will ask what they are looking for and try to interpret the haircut.
Other family members of Taylor have gained creditable experience from being in the shop. Mike Taylor, 16, is Taylor’s son. One of three boys and one girl, Mike has had barber experience since he was 11 years old.
“It was just something I do when I’m bored. [I’m not into cutting hair], but I really want to play football,” Mike said.
Yet his dad compliments his skills.
“He probably [can cut] sharper than me. That’s because he is younger than me,” Taylor said as he smiled while Mike cut his hair.
This Philadelphia Electric Academy11th grader does not have plans to stay in the family business, but rather cut hair as a hobby and to make extra money. He aspires to be a student athlete at Temple or Drexel University.
Despite Mike focusing on a different career path, Taylor’s 25-year-old nephew, G Bazeman, has spent the past nine months as an apprentice. Under his uncle’s supervision, G Bazeman has his own chair and work station.
From the numerous combs, guards and clippers, Bazeman knows to use a wider comb on thicker the hair. The most famous comb is the Afro picks. Likewise, the smaller the guard is used on a clipper, the more hair that it will take off.
Bazeman’s favorite trimmer for creating a part is the Andis model clippers. Similarly, he uses the original Andis clippers with T-blades that give a decisive crisp step into fades.
Within the next few months, Bazeman plans to complete his barber license.
Although Taylor and Washington are the business owners, they still pay rent on the building. The property is owned by Powelton Properties—a leading management specialist of rental properties in West Philadelphila and University City.
In the next five years, Taylor hopes to expand in the North Philadelphia area. He wants to keep this concept of diversity in his shop especially on college campuses.
On average 200 to 300 clients come through the Universal Cutz doors every week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the busiest days of the week and the waiting time can be prolonged.
But do not fret. Not only do these barbers pamper the client, they entertain as well. Conversations of popular music artists, neighborhood gossip or watching Leon dance the old school Soul Train line are a few aspects of this lively barbershop.
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