TEANECK, N.J. — Nicholas Ferro was the only white barber in Teaneck's Cut Creations when he started working there in 2003.
But he wasn't the only barber who wasn't black.
There were Jamaicans, Latinos and even a female barber — all of who got their starts at Cut Creations, thanks to its owner, Andre "Dre" Perrin.
"That vision could be monumental and hit new demographics," said Ferro, a Bergenfield native, who now runs a First Stop Barber Shop in Teaneck.
"That's what Dre was targeting, for sure. He instilled that culture in North Jersey."
Ferro says there are few barbers in Hackensack, Bogota, Teaneck, Englewood and beyond who didn't start with Perrin before opening their own shops.
Knowing that gives Perrin a great deal of pride. He says his shop, Cut Creations, was the first in the area to welcome diversity.
To give guys like Ferro a shot.
"When I first started, none of the other shops had all nationalities coming in," said Perrin, who closed Cut Creations after 20 years to open BeSpoke on Queen Anne Road.
"I employed hundreds of people and mentored kids."
Take Ferro, for example, who learned the very basics from Perrin.
"He didn't even know how to hold clippers," Perrin said of Ferro. "But he had swag. They were all able to become great barbers.
"And that makes me feel good. I gave people careers."
Some of Perrin's other proteges include:
- Englewood's Johnny Castellanos, who recently made headlines for keeping artists like Jay-Z and Pharrell looking fresh.
- Jaybee Flores, who was born in the Philippines, and now co-owns First Stop Barber Shop.
- Omar Hastings of Hackensack, 43, has been with Perrin since the jump.
Ferro has long admired how barbers drove the same types of cars as the athletes and rappers they serviced. There was an allure to it, a certain mystique about it.
But, Ferro said, it wasn't just about the money. It was about being part of something like a family.
That made leaving difficult for him and two of the other barbers, when they opened First Stop Barbershop in 2007.
"We loved it there. Those guys were like my older brothers," Ferro said.
"Working there was like being in the New York Yankees of barbershops.
"And being the first white guy in there was a really big deal, and Dre saw that. White kids felt accepted. Me being there added a different level of comfort."
Perrin says he doesn't feel any sort of competition with the Cut Creations originals. He just feels proud to have given them a chance and ultimately, a life.
"I inspired other barbers to open their own shops and be able to survive," Perrin said. "And they're all still a part of my family."