JP Hair Design: an old-fashioned barbershop with some high-tech highlights
JP Hair Design's annual back-to-school haircut program for kids typically draws about 250 youngsters.
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The following is the fourth in a series of stories on the 2014 Dane County Small Business Award winners. Our previous installments in this series can be found at the following links: Tweedee Productions, Berntsen International, and Banzo.
If you walk into Madison’s JP Hair Design on any given day, you’ll see why owner J.P. Patterson likes to call it an old-fashioned barbershop. Hot towels will lie snugly on faces, folks will be lining up to get their chins lathered, and — the most striking anachronism of all — men will lie supine in cozy barber chairs, ready for an old-time straight-razor shave.
But even if Patterson has one eye fixed on the past, he’s still got a steady gaze focused squarely on the future.
“The Behind the Chair show was started by our clientele in the shop. We have a lot of experts who sit in the chair, from attorneys, bankers, teachers, health and wellness people. So for me, I’ve learned a lot from the guys who sit in my chair.” — J.P. Patterson, owner, JP Hair Design
Witness one of this “old-fashioned” barber’s favorite sidelights: a community-affairs YouTube series that sprang from some of the more thought-provoking conversations he’s had with his clients.
“The Behind the Chair show was started by our clientele in the shop,” said Patterson, whose store recently won a Dane County Small Business Award, which recognizes companies’ community outreach efforts and ability to create positive workplace environments. “We have a lot of experts who sit in the chair, from attorneys, bankers, teachers, health and wellness people. So for me, I’ve learned a lot from the guys who sit in my chair, and whoever was in the chair, as we talked about whatever the subject matter is, they learned, too.
“So my thought was, how can I get this information out to the community, my network, my clients? So I decided to do interviews and ask these questions and get this information out.”
Behind the Chair has both a YouTube channel and a dedicated website, so clearly Patterson has made his peace with the digital age. At the same time, he’s embraced a traditional community-affairs function that’s often missing in today’s mainstream media.
Among his guests (and topics) have been George Reistad, Lisa Peyton Caire, and Joe Meldondo (environmental sustainability); attorney Chad Kemp (estate planning); former Urban League of Greater Madison CEO Kaleem Caire (education, jobs, and the need to return fun to the community); Doing Business With God author Catrina Sparkman (prayer and journaling); and Richard Davis of the Madison Institute for Healing of Racism (the history and pathology of racism).
In addition, Patterson has explored lighter topics, inviting actor and comedian Kevin Bozeman, Kipp’s Cuisine Catering owner Forest Thomas, and former Madison Memorial Spartan and current Portland Trail Blazer Wesley Matthews to share their thoughts.
“In one of my first interviews, I talked with Mahlon Mitchell,” said Patterson. “Malon was running for lieutenant governor, and we talked about the importance of voting. That was the main thing. We didn’t press people to vote Democrat or vote Republican. We talked about the importance of getting out and voting for your local people and for your state and national candidates. A lot of people liked it. I got a lot of comments on it. That was something that kickstarted the show.”
One of the key goals of the show, says Patterson, is to give people information they can use to better their own lives, and to educate people on current affairs.
“We also interviewed a guy named Haywood Simmons. He used to be a UW Badger [football player] and he has his own business here, and it’s a healthy lifestyle business [Phitness Plus], so we talked about eating right and exercising — the importance of taking care of your body.
“We also talked with Ray Allen, the deputy secretary of the Department of Finance. We had a show about the fiscal cliff, just to explain what it was. We broke it down to 101 so our customers and clients and the other people who watch the program could really understand what was going on with that.”
Cuts for kids
While JP Hair Design is reaching out to the community through its lively YouTube fare, it touches lives a little more directly each year with its back-to-school haircut program for grade schoolers and high schoolers.
This past Sunday marked the ninth year the business provided free haircuts to students, and in a single day it typically serves 250 kids.
Patterson said the idea for the back-to-school haircut day came about when he and his co-workers were helping out 100 Black Men of Madison with the organization’s Backpacks for Success program.