By Darlene Donloe
CRENSHAW — After 12 years of working in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher, prep person, line cook, shift manager, and sous chef, Rashad Pearson, 38, decided he needed to switch gears, both figuratively and literally.
While he had a genuine love for food, he had an even greater desire for cutting hair, something he started doing at the age of 14, after his mother bought him some clippers.
“I would line up myself as well as my friends,” said Pearson, who attended Northwest Cosmetology in Portland, Oregon. “After all those years, I realized being a barber is my passion.”
So he bought a bus, a chair and all the fixings he needed to open up his own mobile barbershop.
The result is Finesse & Fadez Mobile Barbershop, a colorful red and blue bus he launched last February that currently sits outside Earle’s On Crenshaw Boulevard every Friday and Saturday. The bus is in the San Fernando Valley on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
He chose the area outside of Earle’s On Crenshaw because “it’s a good, clean area with good eating.”
Pearson takes walk-ups but encourages appointments.
He opted for a mobile business because he didn’t want a traditional brick-and-mortar barbershop.
“They can be a bit uncomfortable,” he said. “I remember it being filled with testosterone and ego.”
Pearson, a South Los Angeles native, credits his love of cutting from his younger years when he “grew up in a barbershop.”
“Every other Saturday I was in the shop,” said Pearson, a single father of two daughters and a son. “My father was always a pretty boy. He would always tell me to keep my hair right and stay groomed.”
For Pearson, the latest chapter is a “life-changer.”
“I was in Portland with my uncle who owned some property,” Pearson said. “I was working in kitchens at the time. Well, I happened to turn down the wrong street and ended up taking a vacation for five years. “Everything changed in my life. I had to take accountability. I didn’t grow up struggling. While I was in the penitentiary, I re-found my passion.”
Pearson said after he got out in 2018, he vowed to change his life.
“I did some construction and some kitchen work, but I wasn’t happy,” he said. “I wasn’t a jail person. I had good support and a good family. I enrolled in barber school.”
Pearson said the first year he was “broke.”
“I had so much on my plate,” he said. “I took everything on the chin. I realized if I let myself down, I’m letting down my kids and my mom.
“I was the only Black in [barber] school. I didn’t care. I was ready to take it to the next level. I passed my test and then corona hits.”
At that point, Pearson, who was now living with his mother, had to rethink his plans. He didn’t want to bring the virus home to his mother, so he had to think quickly.
“I put everything on hold,” he said. “I couldn’t take a chance with the virus. I saw someone with a mobile bus and decided to map out my own future.”
Pearson did his homework — reading up on everything he could get his hands on about mobile barbershops.
“I contacted so many people,” he said. “I Googled everything. People wanted $50,00-60,000 for a bus. I was on a budget. I couldn’t do that, so I bought one on OfferUp, where you can buy used cars and trucks.”
Pearson went to work. He went solar for his electricity.
“Everything is solar,” said Pearson who cuts “all kinds of hair.” “The television, lights, clippers, sink, towel warmer, refrigerator. I did that to save money. I definitely didn’t want a loud generator. I also decided to get a wrap that goes around the bus. My wrap has brought me so many people.”
Finesse & Fadez, billed as “an old-school barbershop for the modern man,” does housecalls for $150 to $200. When he is anchored in a spot, a regular haircut is $25. A complete pricing list is on the website: https://finessefadez.com.
The bus has a one-chair station.
“A barber is like a therapist,” said Pearson who said he’ll be going downtown Los Angeles soon to cut the hair of the homeless. “It’s not loud on the bus. It’s quiet and welcoming. I like my quiet time. I have one chair because people don’t like to be around other people with COVID out there. It’s just them and me.
“I can concentrate on that one client and I don’t have to rush.”
Due to the coronavirus, he has instituted the required safety protocols.
“My protocols are pretty extensive,” Pearson said. “I want everyone to feel safe. The ventilation is good. I do thermometer checks, logins, I write down everyone I see (for contact tracing) and everyone has to mask up. I use Lysol. After every client, I do a 15-20 minutes cleanup. I take these precautions because I’ve found that people can get comfortable with corona.”
The safety protocols and cleanups don’t bother Pearson. As a business owner doing what he loves, he’s finding himself smiling every day.
“Actually, a good day is when I wake up and breathe,” Pearson said. “Every day is a good day. I’ve only been home three years. I’m happy. If clients come, they come. My expectation isn’t real high. Whatever it is, it is. I’m grateful if two people come.”
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.