Milo’s on 4th is a legendary barbershop in the Dinkytown area of the University of Minnesota (southeast Minneapolis), having longstanding and loyal customers since 1969. However, in 2011, many in Dinkytown thought the legendary barbershop, owned by Milo David and Dave Watts, would close down for good, with circulated reports of “finals cuts.”
One thing Dinkytown residents did not count on, however, was the continuation of Milo’s legacy by keeping the business running and handing it down to an experienced up-and-coming barber.
“The interest for cutting hair just grew on me,” said Detronza Kirksey Sr., a long time North Minneapolis resident and North High graduate. “As well as receiving the education, [and] learning what being a barber was, [I gained] understanding [of the] impact it has on the community.”
Kirksey developed an interest for cutting hair seven years ago and has made quite a name for himself in the barber community. “I just found out I could make money from [cutting hair], so I figured I could turn it into something,” he said.
In 2009, while attending Moler Barber School, Kirksey started cutting hair immediately after graduation at a barbershop just up the street from Milo’s. The shop on 14th Avenue SE was called Cliques Beauty and Barbers. “Eventually a couple months after, I got laid off and just started cutting hair at Milo’s,” he said.
He came highly recommended by his mentor Terri Mau from Moler Barber School. His work would soon be displayed throughout campus by University basketball and football players, as well as the general University of Minnesota community and Minneapolis area. His persistence and commitment did not go unnoticed at Milo’s.
One day while cutting hair, Kirksey was informed by David that the shop would be closing, causing Kirksey to ponder his future barber and employment plans.
“What am I supposed to do?” Kirksey asked David.
“You’re going to help me retire,” David answered.
“First, I didn’t know that history was going to be made from me owning this barbershop,” Kirksey explained to the MSR. “I stepped up to the plate. I bought the shop with no loans or grants. I cut hair for five years and paid [David] off with the haircut money I saved up. That’s how I transitioned.” On April 1, 2011, Kirksey became the owner of Milo’s.
Shortly after David and Watts retired, Watts died of cancer and David decided to move to Colorado, leaving the legacy of the shop in the hands of Kirksey. David is the oldest barber to own a barbershop in Dinkytown and Kirksey is now the youngest.
“It’s crazy ’cause we both owned the same barbershop,” said Kirksey.
When asked how it feels to be the first Black business owner of a well-known barbershop, Kirksey remained humbled yet proud of his accomplishments and endeavors, saying that though it may seem out of the norm for many people who come from his neighborhood, “It feels normal to me,” he said.
Kirksey, having a diverse clientele as well as style, is well aware from the training he received at Moler’s of what it takes to not only own a legendary barbershop, but be able to cut anyone’s hair who walks through the doors of Milo’s.
“Confidence,” he said. “If you don’t have your education and [the] confidence to believe in what you are doing, you will not be able to step out the comfort zone,” said Kirksey.
As far as future plans go, Kirksey is only beginning to mark history. “I want to…run a marathon for education. I want to be one of the first barbers to cut hair for multiple days straight, sometime a week after school starts for the kids.”
In the future, Kirksey hopes to have a barber school or a chain of barbershops.
Milos on 4th is located at 320 4th St SE on the University of Minnesota campus and open Monday’s through Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm.
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Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org