ALBANY — If you’ve watched the Ice Cube/Cedric the Entertainer movie “Barbershop” — and if you haven’t, you should, it’s hilarious — one of the primary messages of the film is the special bond between a man and his barber.
One need only drop in at the Blade Kings barbershop at 101 N. Jackson St. in Albany — at the northwest corner of Jackson and West Broad ... the door is usually propped open, weather permitting, with a 20-pound barbell — to find that bond personified.
“I’ve been coming here for a few years,” D’Angelo Atkins of Albany said as he waited to take his turn in the chair on a recent Friday afternoon. “You have to be loyal, man. You can’t cheat on your barber.”
The three Blade Kings at the Albany barbershop — Tay Nealy, Derrick Burks Sr. and Sarvain Cook — will tell you right quick and in a hurry that they do more than cut and style hair in their shop.
“We’re not just barbers, we’re counselors,” Nealy said as he finished off 10-year-old Titus Hillsman’s ’do. “We do a lot more for this community than cut hair. Men come here for fellowship, to talk about things going on here and everywhere.”
Darion McDonald, who was getting his hair styled by Cook, said barbershops are an essential part of the African-American community.
“This is a place where everyone talks about what it means to be a black man,” McDonald said. “You may go in with problems weighing down on you, but when you step through the door, all that is just lifted off your shoulders. You know you’re in a safe place; you’re in the only place you can go nowadays and just relax.”
The barber, Burks — who has been cutting hair professionally for six years — says, develops a relationship with his customers.
“Guys come in here to talk about issues, about problems they’re facing, about sports,” Burks said. “Everyone in here, the barbers and the customers, interact. There’s this feeling of fellowship, like a relationship. We have folks come in even when they don’t need a cut. They just relax here, get away from the everyday.”
Cook has been cutting hair for a little more than two years. He said he knew he was destined to be a barber.
“The first job I ever had when I was younger was sweeping out the barber shop,” he said. “It’s pretty much all I ever wanted to do. It’s great having a job at a place like this where I get to talk every day with all kinds of different people. And this is the kind of place where moms know they can drop off their kids and they’ll be safe. We love the location, too, right here on Main Street downtown.”
The service provided by the barbers, customer Ricarlo Hawkins said, is about more than just a new hairdo.
“You come in, get a nice, clean cut, and you walk out with a little extra swag,” Hawkins said. “There’s nothing like the atmosphere in a barbershop. Guys come in, communicate, talk about whatever’s on their mind. ... It’s our chance to get away for a little while.”
That, Nealy says, is why he and his fellow Blade Kings do what they do.
“Look, a man can go his whole life looking for a job he can enjoy,” the man who has been cutting hair for 15 years, said. “There’s something about this — some guy comes in with a messed-up ‘do, and you do your job and transform him, and he walks out with a new attitude. Man, that right there makes you feel good.”
The Blade Kings work their magic Mondays-Thursdays from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Fridays from 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.