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CLIPS: J&C Barbershop part of Park View melting pot

John Minor of J&C Barbershop

Shay Perryman gives WAMU host Kojo Nnamdi "the usual"

Even celebrities have to get their hair cut, and the unassuming barbershop on Georgia Avenue just south of the Petworth metro is where at least two D.C. celebs go. In today’s installment of CLIPS we visit the barber to both former council member Jim Graham and WAMU radio host Kojo Nnamdi.
This story was produced in partnership with Metro Connection on WAMU 88.5; listen to the story here.
Read other stories in the CLIPS series here.

John Minor was once the youngest barber at what is now J&C Barbershop at 3545 Georgia Ave NW, in the neighborhood of Park View. Now, says long-time customer Kojo Nnamdi (yes, that Kojo Nnamdi) with a laugh, “the situation’s completely reversed. It’s the exact opposite.”

Nnamdi has been a customer of this barbershop for 25 years; back then it had a different name and was owned by a woman named Corene Young, who, Nnamdi and Minor say, was anything but. (But she cut great hair.) Minor had been working for her after a career change from his work with the government. “I went away to get married. When I came back, she had lost the shop” due to a change in the landlord. “I needed a place to cut…didn’t have the money to get the place…she went and borrowed the money, gave it to me to start the barber shop. So I used her name…put the C on the window.” And J&C Barbershop was born.

25 years later, Minor still cuts hair for men, women, and children—“anybody that’s got hair,” he says. Sometimes he cuts the hair of people who don’t even have hair: “You have to act like they got hair to appease them,” he says, laughing. “I have a customer now, he doesn’t have any hair up here…he pays me like twenty five dollars for nothing. It’s worth it for his ego to say, ‘OK, I have hair.’ I brush his scalp, comb his scalp. He doesn’t have hair.”

Staying the course
Nnamdi has been coming once every two weeks for “the usual” for over two decades; the only thing that’s changed is that once Corene Young retired, he sits in the chair of Shay Perryman. 

Elevation DC and Metro Connection caught up with Nnamdi mid-cut (almost like we planned it that way). What keeps him coming back, year after year, week after week? 

“One, Shay’s a good barber,” says Nnamdi. “And two, John is a heck of a talker. There’s always good conversation going in the barber shop…you invariably get a different take in the barbershop. You invariably get several different takes in the barbershop because in the barbershop very few people agree about anything. So you get several different opinions to be able to sift through, which is why I’ve never decided to go to a salon.”

Another long-time client: former council member for the ward, Jim Graham, who now is working as “special events director” for the strip club across the street, organizing events with male strippers for both women and gay men. 

“He came in here when he was first running for council member,” Minor says. “He asked for my vote, and I told him I didn’t want to be partial to any particular party…and I was kinda like, ‘You’re not gonna be good for blacks in this neighborhood.’ He said, ‘You’ll be my barber from now on.’ And he held to his promise. …We’ve been friends, or customer-friends, ever since.“

Like any small business in a rapidly changing neighborhood, J&C has had to adapt with the times. The shop has moved twice, each time due to a landlord deciding to sell. “When I opened in this area, I was the only one on this block; it was four black churches, there was a corner store and a fish market and that was it,” Minor says. The barbershop is also in the midst of its second renovation. 

“I worry about how long they’ll be able to hold on,” Nnamdi says. “What happens if the landlord at some point decides, ‘Oh, I want to sell,’ just after you’ve done all this renovation?” He says, ‘I hope that won’t happen.’ But these are the things you tend to worry about.”

Minor says he loves the changes in his neighborhood (except for how hard it is to park now) and speaks proudly of the diversity that’s moved in as Park View and Petworth have changed. “They’re all different ethnic groups on this block,” Major says, noting El Salvadorian, Mexican, black and Nigerian-owned businesses. “All diversified on this block.”

That’s true, but the other change to happen to Park View, as with many neighborhoods in D.C., is the influx of relatively wealthy white residents. From 1990 to 2010, zip code 20010 went from 62 to 33 percent black as the white population grew from 16 to 32 percent. The average household income also rose around $20,000 from 1999 to 2010, according to Neighborhood Info DC.

“There are cultural aspects to places like this,” Nnamdi says, “that have caused this neighborhood to be vibrant for a long time. And even as the neighborhood changes, you want those cultural aspects to remain, because in a lot of respects they identify the neighborhood. And fortunately, a lot of people who move here would like to maintain a lot of those identifying marks.”

Like a 25-year-old barber shop whose barbers just do what they do best: cut hair.

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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