Left of Center by Joshua Maloni
Everyone, from time to time, doubts their abilities.
Will Cruz, when he started to have those feelings, did what, well, not many would do.
He opened a new business.
In a different county.
During a pandemic.
“Jesse (Printup), my business partner, he’s a good friend of mine. There was a time period that I actually stopped believing in myself,” Cruz recalled. Though he had cut hair for two decades – since he was a teenager – he thought maybe it was time to leave the barbershop. “It got to the moment that, I’m like, I just didn’t want to do this anymore. You know, more so personal reasons. And you know, because of him and my girlfriend, they kept motivating – like, ‘Hey, you’re really good at this. Why would you want to quit? And pretty much because of their motivational words and them always pushing me – ‘You got this; you can do this’ – it pretty much uplifted me again. Made me believe in myself again. ‘Hey, I can do this.’ ”
Cruz, 36, took that newfound confidence to 748 Center St., in Lewiston, where he opened J-Cruz Barbershop at the end of the summer. He and Printup completely transformed what was most recently the Village Goldsmith into a spot that feels like a place one would get a haircut.
“Absolutely,” Cruz said. “Everybody who comes in here – I mean, obviously many of the people that do come in here are from the area, so they know what establishment was here before – so they know how it looked before. And to the way how it looks nowadays, it’s like a complete 360. They come in here and they love what I’ve done with the place. It feels comfortable. They say it feels homey. They say it feels like a barbershop should feel – you know, quiet.”
That wasn’t the case at Goodfellas Barber Studio in Buffalo, where Cruz honed his craft.
“I come from barbershops that are loud. We’re working anywhere from ranging from four to eight, 10 barbers in one location,” he said. “Just me being here by myself makes it more, in the sense of, ‘Hey, I’ve got to make this feel more homey; more comfortable for the customers; instead of, you know, ‘Hey, I got loud music playing,’ and ‘I don’t think I should go in there.’
“That’s one thing I’ve experienced in life that – especially in this area that I’ve noticed – I’ve got to make you feel comfortable. This is not Buffalo; this is not the west side. This is a completely different neighborhood – really a different world over here. And I got to give what the people want.”
In that respect, it’s been so far, so good. Customers have commented favorably about the pricing – which is less than larger hair studios in the county – as well as the unique method Cruz employs.
“Here in this area … what I’ve been told is that there’s not too many people … that actually get straight razor. Straight razor haircuts,” he said. “It’s more mainly in this area just scissor cuts. I’m pretty much just bringing my style. I specialize in all styles of haircut, but mainly in straight razor. I think that’s the main thing in this area that makes everything different – as for my barber shop, that I could bring to the people out here.”
For those who don’t know the difference – and this writer didn’t – Cruz explained, “Scissors is mainly for hair. Razor is mainly for touching up the edges.” The razor, he said, “It defines your haircut better. It brings it out.”
Having remodeled his Center Street barbershop – and now starting to make a name for himself – Cruz is just waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease up. He has plans to offer shampooing and hot towel treatment when permitted by the state.
J-Cruz Barbershop is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I prefer appointments, just to have a peace of mind for everybody,” Cruz said. “If your appointment’s at 12, best believe that you will be sitting in the chair by 12. There’s no confusion of ‘Oh, well, hey, I’ve been here waiting for a while. I thought I was next.’ ”
Call 716-405-9595 to make an appointment.
Running a business, as the coronavirus continues to hinder all aspects of society, “Man, you know it’s hard; it really is. Because this is actually my first business I’ve owned,” Cruz said. “I’ve ran a lot of barber shops before, for buddies of mine, or manage a lot of them – when there was no pandemic. And it’s like I could actually see how business is, really.
“It’s sad; it’s hard; but I’m focused. I’m focused and motivated to keep moving. You know, it’s temporary. This pandemic thing is temporary, so just got to maintain focus.”
That said, “This pandemic has not only been a curse, but it also has been a blessing,” Cruz said. “I would have never thought in a million years that I would own a barbershop, in Western New York alone, during a pandemic. But, you know, every day I count my blessings. Even if I have a day that I come in and I’m here for eight-10 hours, and nothing happens, well, guess what? I was here. You know, I met a couple people walking by. It’s always a blessing.”