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Downtown Barbershop, The Starting Line Up, Opens Today

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Jerome Franklin began work last December on his moving his barbershop downtown, his biggest concern wasn’t demand or whether he would find the right staff. He worried about the paint.

“Getting people to feel a certain way when they walk in was something I had never had to think about before because the spaces were basic. I want people to feel relaxed, to feel comfortable and it was by far the hardest thing I had to do here,” says Franklin, owner of The Starting Line Up.

The walls – most painted either tangerine or cream – are dotted with pictures of plants and landscapes. An electric fireplace flickers in the beauty salon and soft jazz wafts through the background. The barbershop, visible from the street corner, is black and silver with chairs lined up with three on each side of the room.

“Picking out that furniture was easy,” Franklin says with a laugh.

Today The Starting Line Up opens on the ground floor of Realty Tower, relocating from Hillman Street on the South Side. Franklin opened the shop 15 years ago and coming downtown was something he’d always wanted to do.

“I see Youngstown growing and I want to expand with this city,” he says. “I started with just barbers but now I have barbers, beauticians and nail technicians. As the city grows, I want to be part of that as a business. This city is a positive place to be and a fun place to come.”

While the downtown has undergone change to attract culture and nightlife, its residential character isn’t as developed. In the coming months, Wick Tower, the Wells Building and the Gallagher Building will open apartments on their upper floors and, in late 2016, the Stambaugh Building will open as a DoubleTree by Hilton. The push has been to develop enterprises for those who live downtown rather than open shops and restaurants that attract visitors.

“We’ve definitely heard the demand for things like this,” says Kelly Persin, property manager for NYO Property Group, which owns Realty Tower. “Jerome has worked very hard on the space and it came out very nice. We’re excited to have a new tenant and something new that the downtown area doesn’t have.”

Even beyond residential customers, Franklin says the business community can benefit from having a barbershop downtown.

“You network in a barber shop and you keep things in the city. People won’t have to go to Boardman or the other side of town to go to a barbershop. Now, they can come in on their lunch break or before they go home,” he says. “For us, we can support these other businesses too. We can do things like meet clients at a bar down here. It’s something that’s very necessary for the downtown area.”

The shop, nearly 1,600 square feet, features space for seven beauticians, six barbers and a nail technician. At the Hillman Street location, Franklin says, there was room only for barbers.

“I never want to limit myself to just barbers. I’ve always wanted to have nail technicians and beauticians. If I had the room, I would have had a masseuse,” he says.

Even as he prepares to move into his third site and begin his 15th year in business, he still faces challenges. Finding the right staff for The Starting Line Up has always been challenging, Franklin says, and preparing to open in a new location hasn’t given him time to interview for all the positions in his new shop.

The shop opens today but the grand opening is set for May 18. Over the next three weeks, he says, he’ll dedicate himself to finding the remaining employees and work out any minor issues.

“In general, it’s always a challenge to run it the right way with the right people and to create an environment that people want to come to,” Franklin says. “The biggest challenge I’ve had in running my barbershop has always been running it as a business that people enjoy coming to.”

Pictured: Jerome Franklin takes a break Monday before putting the finishing touches on his new barbershop downtown, which opens today.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.