Fresh out of barber school 20 years ago, James Bynum joined a group of barbers who opened a shop in a multipurpose retail establishment. Two years later, he became the sole owner, determined to succeed despite the odds that faced his business from the start.
He borrowed money from his older brother to get started, and his wife gave him extra savings she had outside their joint account. An early potential partner bailed out, forcing Bynum to secure all the funding he needed to launch his business.
Customer volume was also low at the start.
"Nobody knew me," Bynum said. "I was located on a busy avenue and I almost gave up."
His mother told him that he couldn't make anyone come to the shop, but he should pray and ask God to send him the clients. Bynum joked that not long after that prayer, he had so many customers that he had to ask God to start slowing down the flow of traffic.
Cutz Too became part of the fabric of the neighborhood, not only for its hair cutting services, but also for its reputation as a place that gave back to the community. For example, Bynum allowed those impacted by homelessness to come into his shop during frigid Minneapolis winters, and offered free haircuts to those who couldn't afford one. When those customers insisted on paying something, Bynum simply asked them to place a dollar on the wall.
When looters entered Bynum's shop, they stripped the wall bare. While Cutz Too wasn't burned down, looters broke windows, vandalized barber stations and stole supplies, a television and the money on the wall. Bynum said the BeyGOOD grant will help him replace some of the stolen materials and pay off debt that has accumulated since the shop closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The whole area is quiet, and we need that energy back," Bynum said. "People see me outside the shop and ask, 'When are you coming back?' It means a lot to me to have this chance to get back to serving the community."