Las Vegas Barber 'Shoots for the Stars'

LAS VEGAS, NV. - In a city like Las Vegas, you never know what to expect. Apparently, this applies to something as simple as getting a haircut at a local barbershop.

“I've been [cutting hair] for 18 years,” said Ezekiel Conner, a barber at Classic Cuts barbershop in North Las Vegas. "When it gets boring and there's no one to cut, I can just play basketball."

“Play basketball” in a barbershop? Yes. Customers at Classic Cuts in North Las Vegas might want to bring along a pair of basketball shoes because the barbershop is equipped with custom-designed basketball hoops and a plush hardwood court more fitting for a high school gymnasium. If you get tired of shooting around, take a seat in one of the barbershop’s shiny blue leather seats to watch sports on plasma television screens hanging from the ceiling like mini JumboTrons.

“It’s different and has a cool atmosphere,” said Calvin ‘Tito’ Hudson, the small business owner who created the concept for the shop. “It’s a mini-basketball arena that’s pretty cool.”

Hudson said his journey towards starting the business had its share of obstacles, including banks that were skeptical of lending money to him because his business idea was such an unheard of concept.

“Since I was starting a different type of barbershop, a lot of banks said ‘no’ and laughed at me,” said Hudson.

But that didn’t stop the 15-year veteran barber from pursuing his dream of opening a sports-themed barbershop. With the help of money from family and friends, as well selling off personal assets and saving up money from his previous barbershop job, Hudson was able to come up with $40,000 to start up the barbershop in 2006.

“I felt relieved,” said Hudson of his business finally taking flight. “If you dream of something and shoot for the stars, it can happen.”

Before officially launching the business, Hudson met with the Las Vegas Small Business Development Center to develop a business plan.

“I went to them to see exactly how to start [my business] and where to finish without spending up all of my money,” said Hudson. “Getting my timeline down, getting an attorney, getting my business plan together, they provided me with it.”

More than four years later, Classic Cuts says it is running a full court press throughout the North Las Vegas community and has increased it’s number of barbers from two to seven to handle the demand. The barbershop also boasts of having homecourt advantage when it comes to the NBA, providing haircuts to most of the players who participate in the annual summer league that’s held in the city. But like most small businesses around the country, Hudson saw a dip in traffic to the barbershop as a result of a bad economy. The dismal recession forced Hudson to come up with a strategy to get people to come back to the barbershop despite their economic situation.

“We started to do ‘Wild Out Wednesdays’ where haircuts were $12 for everyone,” said Hudson, which is a 40% discount from the usual $20 price tag for adults. “We also started giving away [sporting] event tickets to students and military to go with the concept of the shop and things started to pick up.”

When he is not busy giving haircuts, Hudson mentors Las Vegas youth by teaching them how to run a small business and provides kids with jobs at the barbershop.

“I’ve learned that if I want to start up my own business, I can do it,” said Kendrick Billingsley, a high school sophomore who sweeps the floors and works the front desk as a cashier. “I can do anything I put my mind to. If I want to start a barbershop, I can do that, too.”

The basketball barbershop theme is only the beginning for Hudson, who said he hopes to expand his sports-themed barbershop franchise to football, baseball, and even soccer.

“Sports are good because it brings the community together,” said Hudson. “In a small business you have to stay true to your community because without the community, there’s no us.”