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Barber struggles to keep doors open with state restrictions

Manuel Rascon owner of Old School New Styles Barber Shop cuts Jacob Willner’s hair. Willner has been coming to the shop since its opening in 2014. Amy Byres photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Old School New Styles Barber Shop in Rio Rancho is struggling to stay open through the pandemic.

Manuel Rascon and his wife, Irene Leaton, have been the owners of Old School New Styles Barber Shop, which has locations in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.

Leaton said it is challenging to be a business owner right now because of the uncertainty.

“There is no consistency in industry, especially in our industry. And that is what is challenging, and right now we are at 25 percent and it is hard to do business at 25 percent,” she said. “You just lost a majority of your income.”

The Rio Rancho shop opened in 2014. It normally produces about $200,000 a year, she said.

So far for 2020, the shop has made less than $70,000, Leaton said. At this point in the year, the shop should have $125,000 or more.

The landlords of their Rio Rancho location have been understanding and helpful throughout the hardships of the pandemic, she said.

“They understand that we are all in the same boat,” Leaton said.

The same can’t be said for the couple’s second shop of the barbershop on Alameda Boulevard in Albuquerque, she said. Leaton said they have had problems with the landlord at that shop for some time.

“The one in Albuquerque has been asking me to jump through hoops just to get some type of assistance to try and keep our doors open,” she said.

Leaton applied for grants and loans, and has utilized resources like the New Mexico Small Business Development Center. She has applied for about 20 grants.

“I am doing anything I can to try and keep our doors open,” she said.

Depending on how much money is awarded to the business, the Albuquerque location is at risk of closing.

Leaton said this only adds to the pressure of being a small-business owner through a pandemic.

“I am trying to find ways to keep my customers safe, my employees safe, and to adapt to this pandemic and adapt to the environment,” she said.

The shop implements COVID-safe practices at both locations and takes the temperature of customers when they walk in.

She is also now concerned about staffing. The Rio Rancho location has lost four barbers, with a few going to Colorado for work, Leaton said.

“If other states are allowing (businesses to open), we are losing people to other states,” she said.

She understands the governor is trying to keep people safe.

“If we can survive through the holidays, I think we will be OK,” Leaton said.

Nonprofit

Rascon said this year has been hard because he doesn’t know what they will be able to do for their nonprofit Caring Through Clothing, which partners with law enforcement to provide back-to-school clothes for children.

He said his favorite part about his business is being able to help the community. Rascon is an orphan and believes kids need to feel special.

The nonprofit holds three events for children every year.

The first event sponsors a Title I school, with school councilors choosing 25 children to be teamed up with positive role models, who are officers, community leaders, high school athletes and others.

The positive role models take the kids shopping for back-to-school clothes, to lunch with them and to a movie, Leaton said.

The second event provides 25 families with Thanksgiving meals. Families are again chosen by school councilors. A coat drive for kids and adults is also a part of the event.

The third event partners with Rio Rancho Fire Rescue to provide 100 kids with a gift while exploring a fire engine with Santa Claus, she said.

Manuel Rascon works quickly on clients dropping tools of the trade down while cutting a customer’s hair. Amy Byres photo.

“When starting our business, it was never about us; it was about the community we are in and how we can help them. Because we are nothing without our community,” Rascon said.

For more information, call Old School New Styles Barber Shop in Rio Rancho at 440-6153; in Albuquerque, call 347-9377.



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