“The barbershop is the neighborhood community center.” – Nick Romero
Nick Romero started cutting hair in his hometown of Miami when he was 14. “Where I come from, the barber shop is the neighborhood community center,” Nick said. Ever since, Nick’s dream has been to open up his own barbershop. When Nick joined the military in 2009, he spent his free time cutting hair in the barracks, at school and even while deployed in Kuwait and Iraq.
Upon his return to San Diego, Nick continued cutting hair out of his garage and established many local connections at nearby military bases. He would host what he called “Barber Sundays,” where he would cut his friends’ hair in his garage. Not long after, Nick gained more popularity and found himself cutting hair from morning to night. As he built up a steady and loyal clientele base, Nick decided it was time to open up a barbershop to keep up with demand. He received his first Accion loan in 2011 for $15,000 to open up “Rawknykz Barber Shop” with four barber chairs that he rented out on a monthly basis. With those funds, Nick was able to create three new local jobs.
What Nick loves the most about running his business is that he is able to “give the customers a place to call home.” Accion’s partnership with The Hartford has helped transform his barber shop into a gathering place for youth, veterans and local members of the community. It is now a destination for people to talk about local issues and happenings.
Rawknykz Barber Shop has always been dedicated to serving the military community – both active members and veterans. Not only does Nick provide barber service tailored to the military community, he has created a community space for members of the military and their family members to convene. He is very knowledgeable when it comes to the requirements for military haircuts and caters the hours of his barber shop to military men who need haircuts at varying hours of the day.
Nick is also active in his community during his free time, serving on a local community council, volunteering at his daughter’s school, and participating in local art projects. Since opening up his barber shop four years ago, Nick has seen continued demand for his shop’s services. They are now open seven days a week; many times with a line formed outside the door. In January 2015, Nick received his second Accion loan for $10,000 to upgrade the look of the barber shop to be more modern and sophisticated, while still displaying its urban roots. He also added two new chairs to rent out to barbers, hired a full-time braider, and created a new local job. Nick’s future plan is to open a barber school to train barbers how to cut hair and how to create active community centers in their own neighborhoods.