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21Country: A Tale of Two Barbershops

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - The barber shop is black history.

It’s a place to congregate, connect, laugh, and share a strong sense of belonging.

Jerrell Davenport has been creating that environment for over thirty years.

“Coming out of high school I kind of felt like I wasn’t really mature enough for college,” he told us, “I feel like I wasn’t prepared for that, and didn’t know exactly what I was going to do.”

He says he worked in some factories for a while, when his life took a new direction, after a dream.

“I had a vision, a night vision of clippers and things like that,” Jerrell said, “I thought for something to do, I’ll chase that vision.” 

After that, he began to pursue the career, learning from those who already mastered the trade.

“I learned a lot from the barbers that went before me, they inspired and encouraged me to go forward and take barbering seriously”.

E.J. Lacy has been a customer for around 25 years!

He had just moved from Indianapolis, and didn’t know anyone in the area, when he first sat in Jerrell’s chair.

“You feel the warmth, you feel the welcome,” E.J. told us.

The experience is beyond the haircut, and his relationship with Jarrell.

It’s about supporting a thriving black business that’s has become an important meeting place, and valued by the community.

“We learn how to support everyone. I’m always trying to support other entrepreneurs, people that look like me, you know?” he said, “it gives us a sense of hope that we can do what we want to do - and you look forward and try to be the best that you can be, always reaching for perfection.”

Jerrell explains the discussion is so deep sometimes, those who sit down for a haircut, leave a different person.

“Being barbers allow us to cut someone’s hair,” he said, “not only cut someone’s hair but communicate and allow them to feel better and going out and handling or dealing with situation away from here.”

“I take pride in the fact that someone can walk through this door, and not only have his appearance changed,” he continued, “but also can communicate or collaborate with other people in here and prepare them to go home and you know, be better family members or better employees. I honor the responsibility.”

Jerrell owns two businesses, and has since started expanding into retail, selling candy drinks, clippers, hats and clothing.

He sees a future in it.

“I’ve been standing behind the chair for 40 years now and I know it’s not something I’m going to be able to go forever. So, I looked to retailing and networking with other barbers and barbershops and being a part of that. I see that to be a future passion of mine,” he said.

Mack V is a barber who hasn’t been practicing half as long as Jerrell.

He runs iMack Barber Lounge in Glenbrook Square.

It’s his second business, with another planned for downtown.

“I want to be in control of my situation,” he told us, “you know, I wanted to touch my dollar - I didn’t want to get a check from someone. I wanted my money to touch my hand, firsthand.”

He too recognizes that people aren’t paying for just the service.

“I think the barbershop is a great place for people to expand their social skills,” he explained, “being in a barbershop has taught me how to cary myself like a man so much more than I did before I came to the barbershop.”

And Mack hopes that the way he runs his businesses, will be a lesson his kids can use as they grow up.

“It’s very important that I show my sons how to work with people versus always competing with people,” Mack said, “I want to create a legacy of comraderie, a legacy of togetherness.”

He says his staff and customers come from diverse backgrounds, and he intends to keep it that way, with a goal of running a barbershop open to all people.

“It’s important for people to be comfortable and this is why I created a lounging atmosphere, so that people could be comfortable,” Mack told us, “I wanted a facility where the barbers that work with me will come and be comfortable as well as because hey, they’re going to be here all day. What better place to be at all day then a lounge.”

While the barber shop culture evolves over generations, its social importance and value remains timeless.

“Constant repetition is the path to progression,” he explained, “in order to progress in anything that you want to do in life, you have to constantly be repetitious and repeat - then you’ll see the growth.”

When Jerrell reflected, he shared this, “I am very encouraged with the barbering culture at this point. I feel like the city of Fort Wayne and probably the country is in good hands. It’s a culture. It’s a movement.”

iMack Barber Lounge -

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Tony Betton Jr.

Tony Betton Jr. is the ABC21 weekend morning anchor/producer and serves as a multimedia journalist during the week. He is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter (@TonyBettonJrTV) and on Facebook (@TonyBettonJrNews).

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