Local barber seeing economic impact of RNC

Posted at 8:13 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 14:35:36-04

Barber Wavery Willis' interest in cutting hair began out of self preservation. You see, as a child, his mother used to cut his hair.

"She used to do a disastrous job, the kids used to laugh at us," he recalled. So one day around the age of 8 he started cutting his own hair. "Needless to say I was probably doing a worse job than her," he said but with time he got better.

Within a couple of years his skills improved to the point where he began cutting his friends hair which morphed into his own little business charging $3 a cut out of his mother's home.

"And my Mom she would sit at the back window and count all of the people that would come in and she'd charge me $1 per person for her electricity yeah," he said.

These days Willis pays his own electric bills at the two Urban Kutz barber shops he owns on Detroit Avenue and Pearl Road. Since opening his first shop in 2008 he built a steady clientele but noticed it expand in 2014 not long after Cleveland was awarded the Republican National Convention and a man came in from North Carolina.

"He was here to either install windows or wash windows and they were going to be here for the duration cleaning all of the windows in the skyscrapers downtown specifically for the RNC to just help tidy up Cleveland," he said.

WIllis then got the idea to reach out to others who might be coming to Cleveland for the same reason so he attended the local Host Committee's vendor forum to learn how to join their list of preferred vendors but he also took it a step further.

"I befriended concierges downtown, front desk people, cab drivers, Uber drivers, you name it if they're downtown or out by the airport they seen me and they have a stack of my cards and a stack of Urban Kutz flyers," Willis said.

"We probably had at least a 20 percent or better increase from people specifically from that demographic of the RNC."