Throughout Rochester, Hispanic business owners have made their shops hubs of the community.
As part of our Hidden History segment, Elijah Westbrook takes us to Felix Barbershop and tells us how it’s making a difference in a neighborhood that’s seen its fair share of crime and poverty.
At the intersection of Avenue D and North Clinton in Rochester is Felix Barbershop. It’s the oldest Latino-owned barbershop in Rochester.
As you take a walk inside, your eyes are met with at least five barbers hard at work cutting hair. One of them is Felix Santiago, the shop’s owner.
Santiago said, “My family was kind of poor so the only way for me to make money was for me to cut hair.”
Felix learned to cut hair at the age of just 10-years-old when he was living in Puerto Rico. He tells us, “So I started from there, I liked it and I never stopped.”
In the early 2000s, Felix and his mom moved to Rochester, never stopping his passion for cutting hair. He went to school and got his barbering license, all while saving the little bit of money he had to open his very own barbershop in 2006. “It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been easy at all. Like from the start I got robbed here before. We found out who the guy was… I let him — I told him just don’t touch my place no more. It’s hard.”
He says it was his decision to open the shop in this side of town. He knew it was the best way to give back to his Latin roots. “Sometimes I’ll see kids with a lot of hair. I’ll cut their hair for free, cause I used to be one of those kids. Why not? I used to save bottles to get a haircut.”
Felix says one of his biggest motivations on Avenue D and North Clinton is making customers happy and that’s clearly the case here at his barbershop. Joe Rivera says, “I trust this guy intrinsically, so if he says I’m going to do it this way, I have that trust in him just because of his experience and the relationship we’ve had for the past. I’m going to sound really old, but the past 20 years, it’s been a great relationship back-and-fourth.”
What does the future hold for Felix? He says, “Keep doing it. Keep pushing. Why not, we’ve been here for 10 years.”
Safe to say, he isn’t going anywhere. Felix adds he plans to stay at his current shop and will someday expand.