Shop Talk

Backstory: Barber builds business with late hours and $5 cuts

Alonzo Whitley, from left, Anthony Goode and Terri Whitehead wait for haircuts at the 24/7 Barber Shop on Dec. 31.
Alonzo Whitley, from left, Anthony Goode and Terri Whitehead wait for haircuts at the 24/7 Barber Shop on Dec. 31. kbettis@newsobserver.com

James “Jay” Jeffers Jr. takes the phrase “the customer is always right” to an entirely new level.

The owner of 24/7 Barber Shop, who has run barbershops and cut men’s hair for more than 20 years, has built a business model of late hours and low prices to keep up with customers’ needs.

Jeffers, 37, keeps his shop on Fayetteville Road near Garner open until midnight – something that sets him apart from other barbershops, salons and haircut chains.

His hours allow him to attract a nighttime crowd, and many of his customers work late, he said. Having the shop open at 11 p.m. is ideal for them.

He opens at 10 a.m., but if a customer wants an earlier appointment, he said he’ll happily oblige.

“I can sleep when I die,” he said with a smile.

Along with the late-night hours, Jeffers offers $5 haircuts on Wednesdays, which helps him attract up to 60 customers those days. His long hours enable him to handle that many customers.

“It’s in my blood. I could do this all day,” said Jeffers, who doesn’t accept tips. “The fit of the haircut can really affect how people look at themselves.”

Growing up, Jeffers spent his spare time playing basketball and cutting hair. He always knew that if he didn’t grow up to be an NBA star that he would cut hair for a living.

Unlike the NBA, he knew he could make a career out of cutting hair, and most everyone – including basketball stars – needs haircuts.

“You never know whose hair you’re cutting,” he said.

Jeffers, who learned to trim and buzz hair by trial and error in his bathroom mirror, graduated from Harris Barber College in Raleigh in 1997.

As a business owner, he has moved frequently, four times in all, expanding his company and changing its name to whatever fit the business best.

The Wendell resident started his first shop, New Life Barber, on Western Boulevard in Raleigh in 1999.

And in 2000, that place became Five-Star Barber on Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University, where the parking wasn’t great and, at 600 square feet, the building was too small.

He then spent four years in Fuquay-Varina under the name Hair Masters. Following that, he split his time between two shops that he no longer owns: Studio One on Tryon Road in Raleigh and Studio Two in Charlotte, where a former girlfriend lived.

He moved to the Garner location in September 2013, giving it the name 24/7 Barber Shop, which he says is “self-explanatory.”

Initially at Five Star, he invested about $10,000 – including a $5,000 loan for barber chairs. He wanted to start small, he said, because if employees or customers walked out on him, he didn’t want the business to collapse.

Jeffers’ marketing avenues consist of YouTube videos and signs outside the shop advertising the $5 haircuts. Sometimes, he leases chairs to other independent hairstylists and barbers, who charge different prices.

With its black and white tile floors and a stereo in the corner, 24/7 is set up like a traditional barbershop. Jeffers said many are overwhelmed by the amenities of modern shops, and he thinks televisions take away from the community found in barbershops.

“People come to relax in the barbershop,” he said. “It brings people together.”

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