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Birmingham's Barbershop Renaissance

Meet the trailblazing owners of five Birmingham barbershops

For close to a decade, Birmingham has been experiencing a barbershop renaissance. All over the city, new barber shops are popping up led by a creative group of young men and women who believe barbering is more than a job — it’s a calling. This new golden age has also revitalized some of Birmingham’s OGs, breathing new life into classic barbershops. Here are a few of the people leading the resurgence.

Raul Chavez, Owner
Fade Parlor - Downtown, Homewood, Inverness, and Avondale (Coming Soon)

Hoover High School Graduate Raul Chavez is more than a barber. At only 29, the young entrepreneur has developed his Fade Parlor concept into a mini-empire with shops in Homewood, Downtown, and his newest shop, Barber Bar by Fade Parlor in Inverness.

Chavez started cutting hair shortly after graduating from high school in 2012 at the suggestion of his mother who owned a boutique. Self-described as unmotivated academically, Chavez reluctantly agreed. "I didn't really like the idea honestly," Chavez admits. "Back then barbering  wasn't as cool as it is now."

“I thought it would be super cool to have a barbershop that has a man cave feel to it,” he adds. Guys can come in and be themselves, talk about whatever they want, and have a drink,” Chavez says.

Chavez soon went out on his own, opening his first Fade Parlor on 2nd Avenue South. New shops in Greensprings and Inverness soon followed, offering men a unique barbershop experience.

"I always tell my staff, ‘We're not selling haircuts.’ If people just want a haircut they can go to Sport Clips or Great Clips, but that's not what we're about,” Chavez says. “We're selling a whole experience." 

Allison Drake, Owner
The Men’s Chair - Vestavia Hills

Michigan native Allison Drake opened the Men’s Chair because she felt men were underappreciated and deserved a break. She not only believes her skillset is specifically tailored for men’s hair, but her Christian faith gives her an appreciation for men and the weight they carry on their shoulders every day.

“They're tired of being treated like a number," says Drake. "They're the ones that are going to work every day and providing for their families, and they come home without complaint and very seldom get the credit they deserve. They very much deserve a break and deserve to be taken care of and they deserve to look in the mirror and feel good about themselves.”

Located inside Phenix Salon Suites in Vestavia Hills’ Patchwork Farm community, Drake started the Men’s Chair in 2015 at the age of 26 with $10,000 in cash and one barber chair. Over time, she added a second chair and welcomed another stylist onto the team, providing the classics, such as razor fades and crew cuts, as well as modern, longer hairstyles. Now a successful owner and a trailblazer among the new wave of barber shops, she gives credit to God for seeing her through the lean times. "Somehow I made it work. There have been a lot of learning curves along the way, especially post-COVID," Drake says. "I'm grateful for all the struggles. They've definitely made me a better person. I just thank God every day for all the struggles as well as the blessings." 

Kellen Mataafa, Owner
Zephyr Barber - Downtown Birmingham

"For us, the goal has been to bridge the gap between the salon world and the barber world," explains Kellen Mataafa, one of the owners and senior barber of Zephyr Barber. A hip new barbershop a stone’s throw from Red Mountain Expressway in Downtown Birmingham, Zephyr — defined as a gentle breeze from the west — is emblematic of Mataafa, a Southern California native who moved to Alabama to attend the University of North Alabama. He envisioned Zephyr as a modern twist on the barbershop.

Partnering with Austin Shirey, Owner of Greasy Hands in Florence, Mataafa worked with David Baker Architects and Locke General Contractors to transform the Bandsaw Building, an aging warehouse on 25th Street and 2nd Avenue North, into an inviting, funky, yet relaxing space. 

"The big thing with Zephyr was I wanted to create a space that was kind of relaxing, really gentle, and very modern," says Mataafa. The kind of shop we have here is something you see more in bigger cities."

Mataafa discovered his passion for barbering while pursuing a finance degree at UNA. After cutting hair for friends and working at Greasy Hands, he found his way to Birmingham, working for a time at Single Barrel in Homewood before fulfilling his dream by opening Zephyr.

Though Zephyr specializes in fades and beard grooming, they excel in longer hairstyles. “We're always going to do the fades, and we're always going to have short haircuts," Mataafa says. "But where we place our focus on education is on long haircuts and doing more modern styles with our scissors."

Matt Folker, Owner
Single Barrel Barbershop- Homewood

Located in Homewood’s SoHo Square, Single Barrel Barbershop is an homage to the working class man. Founded in 2018 by Matt Folker, a McCalla native from a modest background, Single Barrel embodies his working-class roots and his pursuit of excellence. “We're definitely working-class kids, and, to us, the single-barrel shotgun is a symbol of the working-class man,” Folker says. So that is our origin.”

Additionally, Folker drew inspiration from single-barrel whiskey, which doesn’t require blending with other barrels and is highly valued due to its superior quality.  "So the double entendre is the single-barrel shotgun, which symbolizes our working-class roots and our aspirations to be the best barbershop in town,” Folker says.

After dropping out of college and spending almost five years searching for a career path, Folker finally discovered his passion while a customer at Southside Barbershop. "I was sitting in that barbershop listening to the guys tell jokes, and it's like a light bulb went off in my head,” Folker says. “This is perfect for me."

Over the years, Folker worked at Sport Clips, Southside Barbershop, and Treadwell, and even taught barbering for a time at a local barber college. He chose Homewood for its upscale location and its family-friendly vibes and is thankful to the community for its support, especially as the business recovered from COVID-19.

“It is super to be a Homewood business,” says Folker. “We couldn’t ask to be in a better community.”

Steve Bishop, Owner
Treadwell Barbershop - Mountain Brook

One of Mountain Brook’s oldest businesses, Treadwell Barbershop was opened by J.T. Treadwell in 1961 in the old Mountain Brook Shopping Center. Retired steelworker Steve Bishop purchased Treadwell Barbershop from Treadwell’s son, Jimmy, in 1998 as an investment opportunity without ever stepping inside the shop. However, after getting to know the shop’s staff and regular customers, Bishop was soon hooked on the shop’s great energy and storied history that make Treadwell Barbershop feel like home.

“The people are what make a barbershop,” Bishop says. You see a lot of men standing around talking, a lot of women who know each other, and a lot of kids who know each other. It’s just a great place to be.”

Realizing he wanted to be more than a passive owner, Bishop decided to become a barber in his late 40s. He enrolled in barber college to obtain his license despite being almost twice the age of his fellow students. "I was old enough to be the father of most of the students,” Bishop says.

While Bishop recently retired from cutting hair, several of Treadwell’s barbers have been with the business for decades. Many long-term customers have remained loyal during several relocations in recent years. “You can get involved in a lot of people’s lives 15 minutes at a time, once a month for 25 years,” Bishop says. “You can make a difference in their lives, and they can make a difference in your life, too.”