by Lisa Tome
Drew Johnson has a master's degree in business administration.
But his heart is in hair.
Johnson, who is a trade publication "International Solid Gold" honoree for his innovative techniques, recently set up shop on Elkton's Main Street. The shop opened July 13. Johnson already has plans for both expanding the business and becoming part of the community.
Before coming to Elkton, he already owned a shop, Atmosphere Barber Shop in Middletown, Delaware. His desire to expand brought him to downtown Elkton.
Some of his clients came with him.
Candice Wells used to get her hair done at the Middletown shop regularly. Last week, she was in Elkton. "Once he started doing my hair, I got compliments every day," said Wells.
Johnson offers traditional straight edge barbering in his shop, as well as the latest fads in cosmetology. Three barbers and two stylists will work in the Elkton shop in addition to shampoo staffers.
"We have a lot of clients in Elkton and in Bear," said Johnson, who grew up "all over" as part of a military family. Those clients, and their need for a closer Atmosphere, are his reasons for opening in Elkton.
And although his family moved a lot, Johnson's roots were in hair. His grandmother owned a salon and his uncle Darryl Price is a barber. Price is among the three people whom Johnson said are responsible for guiding him in his career.
"When I was 10, my sister, Lashawn, gave me clippers and told me to cut my hair," he said. He said that Price showed him how to run a business and was the driving force behind Johnson opening the second shop.
Lashawn later died of Lupus but before her death he trained at her salon in Dover. He also trained with another barber James "Janaid" White. He said Lashawn taught him the salon side of the business. White taught him techniques including sharp edge cutting. "Janaid helped me go to the next level. He saw the potential in me," said Johnson.
But it took him a while to realize what his future held.
He attended University of Delaware where he earned a degree in sociology and communications. He got his master's and worked for Bank of America. Part time, he worked at a barber shop in Delaware. While working at the bank, he realized he wasn't doing what he wanted to do. "This is my love. It's my passion. I love what I do. This is all about building relationships. I am looking to build relationships here," he said.
His plans include becoming a partner with the Elkton unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs. He also has plans to give out free back to school supplies to children in need. He also formed a partnership with police officers in Middletown and hopes to establish that in Elkton. "You've accomplished something when you're part of the community," he said.
"Children are our future. I want to be a positive influence in the community. Black barber shops may have a negative connotation. I am here to change all that," he said. "Whether you are black, white, chinese, spanish, or whatever, I want you to feel comfortable."
While he is a black business owner, he welcomes a multi-cultural customer base. "I enjoy the challenge of caucasian hair. I learned customer service from the bank. I can cut white and all different kinds of hair," he said. "I am like Walmart. They cater to all types of clients."
He also has a few famous clients.
He won't name names, but Johnson cuts hair for some professional athletes who play for the Philadelphia 76ers and Eagles teams. "Sorry, no Ravens yet," he laughed.
And although the shop has been open only a short time, Johnson is already planning to expand. He is also adding hot lather by the end of the month. He'll offer massage, manicure services, and tanning in the near future
Atmosphere Barber Shop & Salon is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. The shop is located at 123 West Main Street in downtown Elkton.