Rolando Rubi, owner of The Trophy Room Barber Shop, a neighborhood barber shop in Kirkwood on the east side of Atlanta, knows that his store is much more than a place where men can get a great haircut. “Our focus is really building relationships with our clients. I feel we give back to Kirkwood just that. A very safe, clean, fun place to get a haircut but also a place where the neighbors have a chance to meet each other and create their own type of community.”
Rubi turned to Invest Atlanta to help him open the shop back in 2014. After successfully repaying his loan, he was awarded with the Invest Atlanta’s “Community Favorite” award in 2017. When the pandemic hit this Spring, like so many businesses, Trophy Room had to temporarily close its doors, and Rubi reached out to partner with Invest Atlanta once again. Trophy Room received a twenty-five-thousand-dollar Business Community Loan Fund (BCLF) to help fund the renovations necessary to reopen in a safe manner for both their clients and team.
In addition to modifying and opening up the existing space to ensure that all of his five full-time barbers have the requisite socially distant space between their areas, Rubi needed to purchase PPE equipment, infrared thermometers, and air purifiers. Additionally, the barbers themselves have had to modify their schedules so that only two barbers are working at a time, to minimize the amount of people inside the shop. Trophy Room has always been by appointment only so this will certainly help reduce foot traffic, as they do not accept walk-ins. And, because client safety and infection control has always been paramount to the field of cosmetology, Rubi feels the extra precautions will simply be adjusting to the “new normal.”
After being closed for two months, Trophy Room reopened in early June. Rubi says he feels “confident that barbering is an economically stable industry where we can safely return and make an honest living.”
As they were gearing up to reopen, Rubi and his staff called each and every one of their regular clients to let them know they were reopening. Trophy Room’s loyal customer base has been helping support the shop during the two-month closure, through purchasing gift cards as well as tipping the individual barbers “very generously” via Venmo. Rubi also credits his staff with doing their part to help flatten the curve – not doing any side-jobs – and waiting until it was safe before returning to work. “Slow and steady always wins the race, and that’s what we are doing. We are adjusting what works and changing what doesn’t.”
Rubi believes that his positive outlook on life and his way of handling negative situations has helped tremendously, too. “Covid-19 came. I could’ve reacted negatively and chosen a different path, and I wouldn’t be as solvent financially, emotionally, or spiritually. I chose the positive route,” he explains. “And also, homemade chocolate chip cookies help.”