Windsor

Iraqi barbershops offer cuts and camaraderie in Wyandotte Town Centre

More than 10 barbershops have emerged in a one-kilometre stretch between the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel and Langlois Avenue. Many are owned by Iraqis who are relatively new to Windsor.

'People in a barber shop place, they give you love, they show you care'

Akram Nayyef, owner of Akram Barber Shop, cuts Faraj Putrus' hair. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The sound of scissors is almost as common as cars whizzing past along a busy section of Wyandotte Street popular with newcomers.

More than 10 barbershops have emerged in a one-kilometre stretch between the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel and Langlois Avenue. Many are owned by Iraqis who are relatively new to Windsor, like Rabee Ibraheem.

He owns Rabee Barber Shop, in hair cutting cluster along Wyandotte, where barbers compete to be the best.

"It's competition for the customers," he said with a smile. "This area ... most of them are from Arab communities."

Ibraheem arrived in Canada in 2009 with the hope of following his family's footsteps and opening up his own barber shop. Three years later, he finally realized his dream alongside his wife and three children.

"I started when I was 15," said Ibraheem. "I went to Syria as a refugee before I came to Canada, I opened a business over there. This is my first business in Canada."

A barbershop family

Combs and clippers have been in his family for decades. Thanks to that history, Ibraheem has 25 years of hair cutting experinece.

His father owned a shop in Iraq where Ibraheem learned the ropes. It's a family affair — even his brothers and grandfather cut hair.

Inside his Windsor shop hangs a photo of his father as a young barber, reminding him of his roots. A rewarding job Ibraheem said allows him "to be close to the community ... to see many people [and] to help them."

Barber shops on Wyandotte are more than just a place to get a new fade. Many are lined with comfortable, leather couches. Many people consider these shops community hangout spots, even if they don't need a touch-up.

Rabee Ibraheem, owner of Rabee Barber Shop in Windsor, stands in front of a photo showing his father cutting hair back home in Iraq. (Jason Viau/CBC)

"Today, for example, I came here just to chill," said Faraj Putrus, a loyal customer of Akram Barber Shop. "When you come here you feel comfortable. People in a barber shop place, they give you love, they show you care, they respect you. So, you just want to keep coming back to them."

His clients, and now friends, have been coming to Akram Nayyef's barber shop since he opened it in 2011. Nayyef is also from Iraq and cut hair back home. There may be different hair styles between both countries, but the sense of community is still very much alive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Viau is a video journalist, TV host and radio newsreader at CBC Windsor. He was born in North Bay, but has lived in Windsor for most of his life. Since graduating from St. Clair College, he's worked in print, TV and radio. Email him at jason.viau@cbc.ca

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