Owner of The Ridgewood Barbers is Living The American Dream

Letter from Ridgewood Barbers

My name is Jean Vargas. I came to the country from the Dominican Republic when I was five years-old. I have lived in Ridgewood for most of my life. I even went to P.S. 68 for Elementary school, I.S. 77 for junior high school, and then Grover Cleveland High.

Growing up, I felt limited because of my immigration status. I felt uncomfortable going beyond the borders of Ridgewood. Little did I know that I would make a name for myself in my own community.

Maria, my mother is an amazing role-model and entrepreneur. She worked hard to provide for me and my 3 siblings. She was the owner of Elegancia Beauty Salon in Ridgewood. As a single parent, she was always working long hours, and running a business to make ends meet. Because of her, I grew up learning what true hard work was. This included a dedication to professionalism, cleanliness and customer care. These are values that I am dedicated to everyday.

Photo from The Ridgewood Barbers

As a teen, I worked at Myrtle Sporting Goods and had big dreams. Sadly, I learned I was unable to acquire financial aid to go to college because of my immigration status. Instead, I decided to enroll in a barber school since it was something that interested me. Especially since working on hair ran in my family.

Immediately after graduating high school, I went to the American Barber Institute in Manhattan. I started as a barber in my mother’s own salon and worked there for years. I even slowly built up clientele. Starting off wasn’t easy and often I would sit for hours, not cutting a single person. I never got discouraged because my friends from the neighborhood supported me, let me practice on them, allowed me to hone my skills, and they eventually became actual clients. For that I’m ever grateful. I have been lucky to have my closest friends in the neighborhood.

Still, I have been around the neighborhood long enough to see all the changes happening. For example, Keith’s Comics and Rock Bottom is gone. Also, it is sad seeing some of my friends and neighbors getting bought out.

Still, to me, gentrification has its pros and cons. Many local coffee shops and other spots have popped up, and I like that. Also, there wasn’t much to do around here and now my friends and family have new bars and restaurants to venture to. To me, this neighborhood is like the seasons… they always change and you just have to know how to adapt.

As the neighborhood started changing rapidly, I started losing clientele. I was starting to lose the love for barbering. The reality is that as a barber you’re working for yourself, you don’t get sick days, vacation days, or the luxury of benefits. I was also looking for some stability.

I decided that perhaps it was time for me to get a different career. I became a NYS EMT and volunteered for the Ridgewood Ambulance Corps a few times. I was even called up by FDNY .

To my surprise, I was presented with the opportunity to acquire my mother’s salon and turn it into my very own barbershop. After much consideration and regained love for barbering, I decided to take that opportunity and open the Ridgewood Barbers on December 2015.

The name “Ridgewood Barbers”, has an interesting story. I had the opportunity to cut hair at the Ed Sullivan Theater for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. When CBS asked for an invoice, I needed a business name, my first thought: The Ridgewood Barber.

At the end of the day, I wanted my business to be a pillar in the very neighborhood I call home… an in-between to the new and old Ridgewood. I wanted to make sure that people from all walks of life would know that Ridgewood is not just this supposed “hip cool place”, but a neighborhood full of vibrant cultures from all walks of life.

That is why I sell my own, designed Ridgewood apparel in my barber shop. My friends and family… my neighbors… have been here and I want to show that.

Photo from The Ridgewood Barbers

Also, I wanted to show that as an immigrant I am neither lazy, or trying to take anybody’s job…because I’m thinking beyond a job. What I envisioned from the start was to have a shop that could become a cornerstone in the area and be involved in the community.

All in all, I choose to represent Ridgewood because this neighborhood is what made me.

I’m blessed to have that team now with Izzy, Jon, Jorge, Mikey, and Andrés… thank you all.

Ridgewood Barbers Shop
Open 7 Days
993 Seneca Avenue Ridgewood, NY 11385
(718) 821-0500
IG: @Ridgewoodbarbers
His Personal IG: @theridgewoodbarber
Our FB: The Ridgewood Barbers

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