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Former prep hoop standout now making buzz as barber

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Jeremy Cook cleans up his clippers inside of A-1 Cutz – the downtown barbershop that he and a pair of friends opened 9 months ago.


POSTED December 14, 2012 12:31 a.m.

It was a moment of introspection that led Jeremy Cook from his seat in the barber’s chair to the padded mat behind it.

And he hasn’t looked back since.

The former local basketball prodigy – who cut his teeth at Sierra High School before transferring to West High of Tracy to be part of a Division 1 team that made a run at a section title at Sacramento’s Arco Arena in 2001 – was sitting in a chair during his weekly visit to the barber shop when he started to contemplate things.

What exactly was it that he wanted to do with his life?

A conversation with the barber began to turn the wheels in his head, and he began to see a pattern unfolding: if he was shelling out money every week for a haircut, there had to be others out there just like him in need of a quality local option.

That was two years ago. And for the last 9 months Cook and partners – both friends of his from his days of competitive basketball – have been operating A-1 Cutz in Downtown Manteca. The Bulletin caught up with Cook to find out what it’s like to be behind the chair:

What it is about barbershops that people enjoy?

“There’s just a laid back atmosphere where people can come in and talk and laugh – you learn a lot of stuff also about all kinds of different things. People come in and talk sports and talk mess, politics and women. Especially women. You could go on forever.”

Your shop is relatively new, only being open for 9 months. What’s the most difficult thing about getting off the ground?

“Probably building a clientele. We get a lot of walk-ins and the location has really helped us out, but we want to get to a point where we’re able to have people that we know are going to be coming back on a regular basis. We have some but we aren’t there yet.”

What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?

“You don’t have a boss and that makes for a really relaxed environment. You get a chance to have good friends and family come in and new customers and you talk with ‘em and they leave happy. It’s a great experience for all of us.”

There have been a lot of movies about barbershops or feature key scenes with barbershops – Barbershop and Coming to America to name two of them. How do they compare to the real thing?

“I’d say that they’re right on key. Ours isn’t that busy yet, but I’d say that at least one thing happens every single day at a barber shop. One crazy thing happens on any day. But the way they show people joking and the different generations and everybody having a good time – that’s the way it is.”

What are some of the challenges that you face being your own boss?

“Coming up with the overhead – paying all of the bills and barely making enough extra to live off of and having to take other jobs to maintain. They say that it takes two or three years to truly establish, so we’re working on that.”

Mexican food or Italian food?

“I like ‘em both, but I eat more Mexican food than Italian food. I like to keep it simple – normally just a burrito and some tacos if I’m hungry.”

What was the learning curve like when you first started cutting hair?

“Everybody is different and has different hair and you have to learn how to deal with that. We don’t want to send anybody away saying that we can’t cut that style of hair. But so far things have been going pretty smooth.”

You grew up in Manteca but spent some of your high school years in Tracy. What made you want to open a barber shop in your hometown?

“I have a lot of friends here, and I heard that a lot of people were leaving town to get haircuts other places – Stockton, Modesto, Tracy. I know that when I was getting my hair cut I would go to Stockton. So we wanted to handle that business and I thought that we could it ourselves.”

What is the atmosphere like for your customers?

“We’ve got the TV up on the wall and we always have some nice music playing. We have the people that come in and just want to talk – sometimes we have to kick them out. There are the retired guys who come in and shoot us some wisdom. It’s a relaxed place.”

How has the reception been from other downtown businesses?

“The support has been good. Everybody has been friendly, and other barbershops have even sent people down to us. That was cool.”

Where would you like to see the shop in two or three years?

“I’d like to be able to have steady appointments – people that we know are coming in every 30 minutes on a regular schedule. Having a strong client base I think would lead to a steady income. We want to be able to build the business up and have people know where we are and where they can go.”

A-1 Cutz is located at 213 W. Yosemite Avenue, and is Open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call (209) 688-5997.

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