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HeadLiners Episode 11 | WordsBy: Miranda Clay

The Roc is in the building, and I am not talking bout Jay but we are referring to his barber Johnny Castellanos. Johnny has come to Against the Grain with no gimmicks or games and presented the hair industry for what it truly is. Even with a cough and runny nose he is flyer then the lame barbers that individuals are use to. He has been in this industry for 15 years and his feet are planted; he is not going anywhere.

Mr. Castellanos story reads like a bedtime story, but with a few more twist and turns. In his youth his plan was to be a cop; imagine that growing up in New York wanting to be a cop. However, things do not always work out as planned. He was drafted to cut his crews hair because they couldn’t afford to go to the barbershop like they like, so since he could draw the drafted him to do their cuts. His first cut was with no guard. Unbelievable that his first cut was freestyle but that shows his talent from the beginning. Johnny, like many, got to an age where he was defiant and wanted to do his own things as a result he dropped out of high school. Yet, a higher power had plans for him. He was blessed with the gift of fatherhood. It was up to Johnny to stand up and be a man; and that is exactly what he did.

In order to support his growing family he began to cut hair out of his home, while completing his GED. Upon finishing his GED Johnny embarked on Barber College so that he may one day aspire to own his own business. He knew he was talented and graceful when it came to cutting hair but he had no ideal where his talent came from. He learned later in life that his grandfather was also a barber thus this trade ran through his veins.

Johnny floated from shop to shop before opening his own barbershop named The Shop in Engle, New Jersey. This is where he began to flourish as a barber and businessman. His clientele developed at an alarming rate which he attributes to word of mouth. “Concentrate on doing a good job because the next job comes from word of mouth”, acclaims Mr. Castellanos. In fact word of mouth is how he meets his biggest client Shawn Carter (Jay-Z, Hoover, Jigga, etc). Johnny was cutting Damon Dash hair on the regular and D. Dash flew him out to the Hampton to cut his hair. Jay-Z said to Damon in front of him, this guy is that good for you to fly him way out here. Then he turns to him and says if you suppose to be that good let me see for myself. Thus history was born; he has been cutting for Jay-Z for 10 years and counting.

The difference between him and other barbers is that he is straight forward with no games or gimmicks. He does not do things like designs or etc because he likes for his clients to look natural. His specialty is the blade and straight edge but his hands are so gifted that any cut he does is special. Johnny mind set is to always give input to what looks good on the client. As a barber to the stars Johnny is sworn to silence because “what is said in the chair stays in the chair” asserts Mr. Castellanos. He then explains “A client trust is very important because if they can trust you with their personal thoughts and ideas then they can trust your vision for them and that makes you feel good.”

It is also important to him to treat every client with the same gratitude and customer service. The best way to do that is to have a great team in the shop. In his eyes he has the best team in his shop and even though they have conflicts at times how they solve those conflicts makes their team that much more stronger. They do not have to undercut each other to make a dollar; they work together well and make their ends meet regardless. It is very important to him that his shop stays very clean and respectful. This is a major part of his business because not only does he and his team cut adults hair they do cuts for children and perhaps one day women. Therefore he must run a very personable business. In his eyes he is still in the perfecting realm and it takes time to reach perfection.

At times Johnny can be his own worst critic or as he puts it “I don’t judge myself but it is the whole package, talent and character. I don’t talk much but I am good at what I do.” He never imagined that cutting hair is what he would be doing to support his family but he is very grateful for all of the blessings. At times his life can be very hectic with clients all over the place; but thankfully his clients in The Shop understand how his schedule can be. Not to mentions in his field he is put in many different situations that better him as a person. Nevertheless, he remains family oriented. His family is his upmost priority.

Johnny is working on many projects one of which is opening more shops. He will continue to cut for Shawn for as long as possible, while still building his clientele in his own shop. He sends out thanks to everyone who has supported him in his growth and invites anyone in his area to stop by his shop because it is a platinum experience.

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