After three decades in the industry, a Franklin County native has brought her barbering savvy to a historic shop on Ottawa’s Main Street.
“It sometimes throws people off, me being a female barber,” said Leisa Price. “When I took the shop over, there were some clientele who were skeptical. I think I’ve won them over.”
Price is the owner/operator of Cut-N-Up Barber Shop, located at 411 S. Main St. in Ottawa. A Williamsburg native, Price bought the shop — formerly known as Palace Barbershop — in July.
“I have a barbershop in Garnett, I’ve had that barbershop for eight years and I still run it,” Price said. “I go down there three days of the week, and I'm here the rest of the time.
“I love getting to be a part of the growth in downtown Ottawa. I see new business is coming in and I hope that it continues.”
Price is excited to write the next chapter in her establishment’s history, which goes back decades.
“It goes back to the '50s and even earlier; I haven't been able to find a confirmed date,” she said. “We have an obituary displayed of a guy who used to shine shoes in the shop. I like the old, nostalgic barbershop feel.”
Price’s own experience in the barbering industry also goes back decades, to a time when she “stumbled” into the profession.
“I didn't know I wanted to be a barber,” she said. “I went through a dental assisting program, and did not like working as a dental assistant.”
Price found a chance to switch careers during a difficult time for her family.
“My mom and dad divorced after I graduated, and my mom is always a stay-at-home parent — she never worked outside the home,” Price said. “So a friend of hers talked her into going to barber school. My mom always liked to do hair.”
Price’s mother didn’t want to go through the program alone, though.
“I hated what I was doing at the time, and she said ‘Would you go with me?’ ” Price said. “I said, ’Sure, let's do it.’ ”
Price graduated barber school in 1988 and was immediately recruited to work at what is now Amyx Barber Shop North on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence.
“They wanted somebody who is good at flat tops, and my name came up,” she said. “My time there taught me a lot about the business, a lot of stuff that they don't teach you in barber school. I learned how to tear apart my clippers, replace parts and all kinds of other stuff – I learned so much in that shop.”
Her time at the Amyx shop also formed her first experience overcoming gender bias in the barbering industry.
“I was the only the second woman ever to work at that barbershop, and I had a terrible time getting these guys to sit in my chair,” she said. “I would get so frustrated. The guys would be busy, and we would have people lined up, and I will be sitting there with an empty chair. I felt so embarrassed.”
Price wouldn’t give up, though.
“Finally, I bought this old-fashioned, button-up-the-sides, banded-collar white barber smock, like Floyd the barber in ’The Andy Griffith Show,’ ” she said. “I wore that thing every single day for a year solid. I hated it, but it worked. People started sitting in my chair.”
Price’s persistence over her extensive career has yielded what she sees as the best part of her occupation.
“I get to see people’s transformations,” she said. “Especially folks that get a more significant change — when that person gets complimented, they feel better about themselves, and I love that — that's probably the most rewarding part.”
For more information on Cut-N-Up Barber Shop, visit its Facebook or Instagram pages.