Southside barber a Black constant in changing neighborhood
“Gotta stay out here and stay relevant, you know what I mean?” says the owner of Fresh Cuts Barbershop.
Cameroon Cook tends to the taper of a regular customer at his South Minneapolis shop, in one of the first Twin Cities Black neighborhoods. Cook, who first opened Fresh Cuts on Nicollet and 34th Street, moved to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 38th Street about six years ago.
The former South Minneapolis Black stronghold has slowly grown less and less Black over the decades. Even in the time since Cook’s arrival, the character of the community and neighborhood has changed. But, says Cook, change is good.
As new condos and retail buildings spring up, so do other small businesses, including barbers. Cook has noticed a recent barber-boom.
“We’re all cool with each other,” says Cook of his “barber community,” sometimes talking while cutting, other times pulling the clippers away on the cloudy July morning. “We try to help each other if we can.”
Cook also tries to keep up; he’s outfitted Fresh Cuts with new floors and sleek new chairs. Still, he says, there’s always more to be done, always more ways to further invest in the shop.
The above-height owner casually contours a haircut, a tight denim dad cap framing his amiable smirk and neighborly demeanor, his short-sleeved oxford stretched over solid muscle as he cuts the hair of a young man. This young man is just one of the many who come to Cook’s welcoming, classic barbershop that’s brimming with laughter — including that of a woman barber — and the comforting hum of inane sports debate from hanging TVs, and sit down to talk about everything but hair. Cook already knows what haircut the young man wants.
Cook has been cutting the hair of guys like this for years, since they were in middle school and junior high and high school, kids looking for a place to hang out for a minute after school, or for a destination and a quick chat on a meandering summer day.
“I got my first fade here,” the young man says proudly from the barber chair, adding he heads straight to Cook when in need of a cut.
In the same way that Cook’s taken measures to invest in his shop, he also invests in the community, committed to being a contributing member for the long haul. One such initiative is an end-of-summer tradition: He offers free haircuts for kids the week before school starts.
Cook gave his first haircut when he was a kid, hooking up his cousin. He really got into it and decided to go to barber school. He hasn’t looked back since graduating in 2005.
As well as Cook, Fresh Cuts has two barbers on staff who can handle all hair. Cook says he is looking for more barbers. The barbers work on appointment and welcome walk-ins. The shop is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm.
Solomon Gustavo was a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.