Baltimost: New Beginnings Barber Shop

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New Beginnings Barber Shop
Photo courtesy of New Beginnings Barber Shop.

New Beginnings Barber Shop

Troy Staton took the bullets as motivation. A year ago, he was struck three times in the back of the neck when a gunman ran inside his shop and fired upon a customer, hitting him and Staton as well. They proved to be graze wounds, and he was released from Shock Trauma that same day.

"I'm still alright, you know," he says. "I'm grateful."

While the experience could certainly set someone back physically and mentally, for Staton, "it gave me a more intense drive to move forward."

Staton's New Beginnings Barber Shop has been a mainstay in Southwest Baltimore's historic but direly underserved Hollins Market neighborhood for more than a decade now. Staton had grand ambitions when he moved the business to 1047 Hollins St. in 2008, beyond being a place to get a haircut.

It began with an art gallery. An avid collector, Staton brought pieces in to showcase and educate neighborhood children. He curated a library of art books to peruse, and began exhibiting work by professional artists--including pieces seen in museums--and students alike. He's since partnered with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, MICA, Coppin State University and others "to bring art exhibitions to the community and resources to those that normally wouldn't be exposed."

Then came the health clinics. Staton teamed up with insurer Kaiser Permanente to host a van at his shop, with medical staff giving free health screenings, flu shots, HIV tests and more. It was so effective that they've repeated it for three years since, and have now brought on two other barber shops and two salons in the 21223 ZIP code to do the same.

"We bring it to the people who need it in an untraditional setting," Staton says.

Post-shooting, Staton ramped up his outreach, steered by his nonprofit Luvs Art Project, with the "More Than a Shop" initiative. He partners with a dozen Baltimore barber shops and salons, from Cherry Hill to Park Heights, to help connect customers to resources they aren't getting or may not be aware off. Examples include public health awareness events and expungement clinics to help job-seekers clear their records.

Staton characterizes his approach as "disruptive innovation." It banks on using the full reach of a community-serving business. And his model began with New Beginnings. 

"It's a barber shop, but we wanted to be more than just a barber shop. It's become a community hub, a central resource."

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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