Syrian refugee quickly becoming Corner Brook's most popular barber
After surviving their first winter on the west coast of Newfoundland, Mohammed Almaidani, his wife and two infant children are settled into their new home in Corner Brook, and picking up life where it left off for the refugee family.
In his early 30s, Almaidani has 17 years of experience as a barber, and it didn't take long for him to get back behind the chair in his new home town.
He started working at Silver Scissors and the Emerald Spa shortly after arriving, and is quickly becoming Corner Brook's most popular barber.
"I like Corner Book and people in Corner Brook — beautiful, beautiful. Community helping, community always smile. I think (that's) making a difference," Almaidani said amid laughter as he works on his English, a language he's picking up quickly on the job.
Unique skills in the city
From shedding hair off the top to straight-edge shaves, Almaidani does what you'd expect from a barber.
But he brings something else to town that people in Corner Brook are raving about — threading.
Almaidani describes this as a type of hair removal similar to waxing but with a different technique, that people with sensitive skin prefer.
He takes out a thread of cotton or polyester that looks like dental floss, wraps it around his fingers and begins, shuffling his feet as he quickly manoeuvres from the cheeks, to nose, eyebrows and forehead — basically where ever there's unwanted hair.
The thread forms a type of trap to pluck unwanted hair, making quick little pinches as he moves from section to section.
It's a unique skill that is a part of Syrian culture, although Almaidani said it is hard to learn.
Salon owner Elizabeth Brake is happy to have someone with Almaidani's skill set, and said the new Canadian is fitting in just fine with the rest of the staff.
"He has brought so much to our business. My girls are always watching him, so they get ideas from him," said Brake.
"And just to have a barber on staff. Maybe not to a regular person, they may not see the difference between a barber and a hairstylist, but it is a big difference."
I just let him do whatever he wants, and he always makes it perfect.- Josh Hutchings
And the demand for the Syrian barber and his skills is picking up.
Jonah Hutchings, an aspiring hairstylist and employee at the salon, is just one of Corner Brook's residents to have a new favourite barber.
"Usually I'm really picky when it comes to people touching my hair but I just let him do whatever he wants, and he always makes it perfect," said Hutchings.
Hutchings relaxes in the chair as Almaidani moves quickly around his workstation, bobbing his head — he's in a groove — and starts clicking the scissors and the comb together rhythmically, in between snipping hair.
Almaidani is doing what he loves, beginning a new life with his family, and doing his best to fit in with his new home town.
When the family moved here from Damascus he didn't know any English.
Thanks to the community's help and his determination, Almaidani was able to take questions from CBC only months later.
The language barrier didn't worry his boss.
"We have clients that will pick up their phones and show pictures. And where he's doing men, men don't like to give instructions on hair," said Brake.
No doubt his English will only improve, and one day match up to his impressive skills with scissors.
With files from Colleen Connors