He’s being Earnest

Earnest McHenry jokes with his ten-year-old regular customer Andrew, while cutting his hair his shop, Style Cutz Barber Shop at 305 Blanding Blvd, on Tuesday March 31. (Christina Kelso/ Clay Today)
Earnest McHenry jokes with his ten-year-old regular customer Andrew, while cutting his hair his shop, Style Cutz Barber Shop at 305 Blanding Blvd, on Tuesday March 31. (Christina Kelso/ Clay Today)

ORANGE PARK | Earnest McHenry beamed as he recited a short phrase he created not only as the guiding words for his budding business, Style Cutz Barber Shop, but as a way of bringing integrity and expertise back to the word barber itself.

“Exceptional service stands out,” he said. “There are many barber shops, like there are many people who cut hair, but all are not barbers. Barbers are professional. That’s what we’re offering here, professionalism. Not just a place to get a haircut.”

After a lifetime tampering with hair and more than 16 years of working as a professional barber in shops throughout the First Coast, McHenry fulfilled a dream of becoming his own boss on Feb. 1 when he opened Style Cutz’ doors at 305 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park.

From behind the barber chair, where he works from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, McHenry transforms ambition into action.

“It’s a profession,” he said. “Having a job and having a profession are two different things. Having a job, you do out of necessity. Being in a profession is something that you do naturally, something that you put yourself into.”

Offering a full barbering service, including a hair cut and a hot towel shave, McHenry carries out his craft with a practiced precision, using a classic straight razor to contour the details of each cut.

It’s a craftsmanship that keeps customers like Clay County resident Christopher from page 15

Padgett coming in and coming back.

“I’m fixing to be 33-years-old and I’ve gotten my hair cut every two weeks my whole entire adult life, and obviously got my hair cut throughout my youth, and I have never found a place that is ran so well,” Padgett said.

Padgett first met McHenry after being referred to him by a friend approximately a year ago, while he was working at another Orange Park barbershop. Since then, Padgett has not only become a regular customer himself, but has converted several friends and coworkers into Style Cutz regulars.

“He is the epitome of what an American business owner is, to step out on his own, to not half-way do anything, to make sure that this shop is immaculate, to open up the doors and to run a business that legitimate with the integrity that he runs it in,” Padgett said. Praising the quality of the cut he receives, Padgett described frequently being stopped by strangers, both while out at local shops and restaurants and away on vacations, complementing him and asking, “Where did you get you get your haircut?”

Earnest McHenry works on regular customer Wes Smith’s hair at Style Cutz Barber Shop at 305 Blanding Blvd., Tuesday March 31.

Without a need for much traditional advertising, McHenry’s business is built on and continues to grow largely by this kind of word of mouth, he said.

“What surprised me is how it’s taken off,” McHenry said. “I anticipated that would take longer than it has. But since we’ve been open, every single day we’ve cut new people, since we’ve been open. And that, in itself, is very promising. It’s very relieving too.”

It’s in moments of connection with new customers where McHenry sees an opportunity for personal growth and potential to change the negative “stigma” he feels surrounds the industry.

“Most barbershops you can’t take your kids to because there’s a lot of profanity and all that crazy music playing,” he said. “I want it to be a place where everybody can come in and relax. It’s supposed to be a relaxing experience, to get away from the hustle and bustle.”

Searching for a new barber for her 10-year-old grandson Andrew, Linda Stites “tried numerous places” and researched online reviews before finding McHenry seven months ago while he was working at another Orange Park shop.

“People were talking about coming from the beaches to follow him, so I thought ‘I’ll go try,’” she said.

Style Cuts Barber Shop barber Terry Flaggs (left) and owner Earnest McHenry give brothers Christofer Pulido, 11, and Cristian Pulido, 5, haircuts on Tuesday March 31.

Immediately taking to his outgoing personality and quality workmanship, Stites and her grandson followed McHenry when he took the step to open his own business.

“Everybody can’t give a good haircut, so you follow the barber when you find one,” she said. “He’s very meticulous. He takes his time.”

In the coming years, McHenry plans to fill all eight of the shop’s stations with exceptional barbers and to expand with a second location.

And each day at Style Cutz Barbershop, McHenry moves steadily closer to those goals, balancing comfort and conversation with the sharp haircuts, clean shaves, and legacy of professionalism that his hands work to build.

“My name is on the door and that means a lot to me.”