Black barbershop owner stays while buildings razed in Dinkytown

Old shop gets new start 

The historic Dinkytown district on the University of Minnesota campus will be making some major changes this summer. As of March, establishments such as Dinkytown Optical, Underground Printing, Blue Serge Alterations, and the Hair Shaft barbershop were told to vacate the building.

This building also includes the first Black-owned business in Dinkytown: Milo’s Barbershop on 4th Street.  “We all got a letter saying the building is closing,” said Detronza (Tronne) Kirksey, Sr., entrepreneur, and owner of Milo’s on 4th. The building is historical, so [I don’t think] they will be tearing it down.”

The owners of the establishments located on 13th and 4th Streets, west of the renowned Varsity Theater, were informed that they have until the end of July to vacate the premises. Other establishments such as Expresso Royale and Vescio’s Italian Restaurant, established in 1956, have already closed.

Detronza Kirksey, Sr. and young customer Ivan B. Phifer/MSR News

Kirksey doesn’t seem at all bothered by the recent news. In fact, he is excited about where the journey will take him. “Milo’s on 4th has been open since the ’70s,” Kirskey stated. For this business, it will be an end, but for Kirksey, it will be a fresh new start.

This is not Kirksey’s first feat in relocating. His placement at Milo’s began with a career at Cliques Beauty and Barbers also in Dinkytown. As Kirksey’s work became known, other barbers would soon try to shut him down. “At the lowest point in my career — just starting — [Cliques] made me get out of there.” Coincidently, the transition got him placed at the current barbershop he now owns.

Nobody seems to know exactly what the new development will be, and the building’s landlord, Brett Naylor, declined to discuss future development plans for the building. As for Kirksey, he plans to stay in Dinkytown.

In addition to not having any business loans, and purchasing Milo’s strictly with haircut money, he plans to expand the barbershop.

He reported that after the relocation, he will no longer be a limited liability corporation (LLC). “It’s going to be a shocker to the clients to find out I’m still a business owner, but now I will own a corporation. I have to have businesses inside my corporation. It won’t be just me this time.”

In addition to changing his corporate status, Kirksey reported to the MSR that he is working towards obtaining a dual license. “I would [have multiple businesses] including cosmetology and barbering in the same facility,” he explained.

“This business would include one side involving cosmetology and waxing, and on the other side, you would have tattoo and barbering. That’s four businesses in one. That’s why I have to make it a corporation. That’s my goal.”

He reported having a good rapport with his customers. “The biggest thing is about building relationships,” Kirksey said. “Most of my clients have a four-year relationship with me. I would be a lot more eager for my old relationships from when I first started cutting hair to flourish.”

His customers seem to agree with this sentiment as well. Bret Iverson said he has been getting haircuts and being groomed at Milo’s for about six years. “I actually come to the city [specifically] to get my hair cut from Tronne. I would have to find out where he is either way if he did relocate [outside of Dinkytown].”

Iverson said one of the things that stands out about Milo’s — in addition to the quality of business — is the energy. “[It’s] the friendship [and] how he brings people in and keeps everybody together. He does a good job of making you feel part of the community. Everybody looks up to him as a role model, and everyone is comfortable here.”

Kirksey has nothing but a positive outlook, stating he will stay in Dinkytown. “I just want to keep this going,” Kirksey said. “It is a supply and demand field. Stepping into entrepreneurship, you have to love what you do, or you’re not going to do it. I don’t look at it as shutting down. It’s a new start.”

 

Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader responses to ivan.b.phifer@gmail.com.

 

 

 

About Ivan Phifer

Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at iphifer@spokesman-recorder.com

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