SHEAR PLEA­SURE

En­tre­pre­neur cuts hair of NFL stars but his most cher­ished cus­tomers are the young men he men­tors

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Cas­san­dra Day cday@mid­dle­town­press.com @cas­san­dras­dis on Twit­ter

MID­DLE­TOWN >> Ernesto Var­gas Jr. is ob­sessed with hair.

“I was al­ways fas­ci­nated by it when I was a kid. I would see some­body with a hair­cut and say, ‘I want to fix that guy’s hair,” said the young owner of Fi­nesse Cuts Bar­ber­shop in the city’s North End.

In fact, he was his first cus­tomer.

“I used to prac­tice on my­self, the 25-year-old Cromwell res­i­dent said. “I feel like I used to mess my­self up a lot,” he said with a laugh.

Var­gas, who has been in busi­ness at the shop’s 578 Main St. lo­ca­tion — found be­tween the Ti­betan Kitchen restau­rant and Sh­lien’s Fur­ni­ture Co. — for nearly two years, held his grand open­ing in De­cem­ber.

And busi­ness is boom­ing. So much so that Var­gas, who has a full-time stylist on staff, is about to hire an­other.

In high school, Var­gas par­tic­i­pated in the Mid­dle­sex County Cham­ber of Com­merce’s Mid­dle­town Sum­mer Youth Em­ploy­ment and also took part in a work­force de­vel­op­ment part­ner­ship with the Com­mu­nity Re­newal Team in the city. A schol­ar­ship al­lowed him to com­plete bar­ber school.

The 2009 Cromwell High School grad­u­ate got his start

in the field at 17 while a ju­nior, work­ing at Mike’s Bar­ber Shop’s for­mer lo­ca­tion at 505 Main St.

The young en­tre­pre­neur marvels at how far he’s come in less than two years.

“At first I was cut­ting my cousin’s hair, then my other cousin, my un­cle, a friend, then all my high school friends and it just blew up from there,” Var­gas said.

Hair­cut by hair­cut, word of Var­gas’ tal­ent with the clip­pers got around.

Then a high school friend in­tro­duced him to David Reed, a New Bri­tain na­tive.

Yes, that David Reed — the Bal­ti­more Ravens’ NFL wide re­ceiver.

“Some­one said, ‘Hey you’ve got to hook him up with a good hair­cut,’” Var­gas said. “Af­ter that, they told me, ‘that kid is go­ing to the draft next month for the NFL.

“He’s com­ing to me ev­ery week now for a hair­cut be­cause he loved it so much.”

In fact, Var­gas’ tal­ent earned him an­other client — Reed’s brother, Jor­dan Reed, the Washington Red­skins tight end.

“He’s one of the best play­ers in the league and he in­tro­duced me to other play­ers,” and ev­ery so of­ten, the Reed brothers fly him down so Var­gas can work his magic.

“Now I’m cut­ting peo­ple who are fa­mous ath­letes,” he said.

“It’s awe­some. I never knew it would take me this far. In my dreams, I never knew,” Var­gas said.

But his most cher­ished clients are the youth from whom he’s not so far re­moved in age.

One sum­mer, he hired a stu­dent in Vi­nal Tech­ni­cal School’s bar­ber pro­gram. “It was great work­ing with him, let­ting him learn,” Var­gas said. “Now he’s in col­lege on a schol­ar­ship for bas­ket­ball and he’s mak­ing a lit­tle bit of money on the side cut­ting hair for some col­lege stu­dents.”

Young peo­ple and their suc­cesses are what in­spire Var­gas, he said.

“When a kid comes up to me telling me his prob­lems, I try to give him the help that he needs to the best of my knowl­edge. I see him pass­ing it on to some­body else.”

“I love see­ing the pro­gres­sion in peo­ple, the growth in peo­ple. It’s one of the most beau­ti­ful things,” said Var­gas, who also coaches Cromwell’s CYO league.

Now, all his giv­ing back is start­ing to pay div­i­dends.

Last year, Var­gas was in­vited to a pep rally at Cromwell High.

“When I started walk­ing into the au­di­to­rium, I got to the mid­dle logo of the gym and the whole school is chant­ing my name. That feel­ing still runs like it was yes­ter­day. It was awe­some,” he said.

Var­gas’ tal­ent was achieved through years of hard work but to some of his young clients, his skills are other­worldly.

“The kids call me HOG — the hands of God,” said Var­gas, who at­tributes the moniker to his abil­ity to give mul­ti­cul­tural styles.

Re­cently, the Wes­leyan Univer­sity bas­ket­ball team sought him out to raise money for breast can­cer, a project they’ll soon work on to­gether.

“I love those guys up there, the en­ergy that they give me,” Var­gas said. “I love talk­ing to those kids.”

Var­gas also will spon­sor the men’s bas­ket­ball league named for Chauncy Hardy, the Xavier High School grad­u­ate who was killed in Oc­to­ber 2011 in an at­tack in a bar in Ro­ma­nia. He was 23.

Pay­ing it for­ward to com­mu­nity mem­bers and his clients is what fu­els Var­gas’ pas­sion to suc­ceed, he said.

“I see the smile when I turn the chair around, in the mir­ror, and me see­ing (a cus­tomer) get­ting mar­ried and he has this great hair­cut on — it’s like, ‘I did that.’ I’ll get in­vited to an event and when I go in, ev­ery­body has my hair­cut,” he said.

CAS­SAN­DRA DAY — THE MID­DLE­TOWN PRESS

Ernesto Var­gas Jr. of Cromwell, 25, opened Fi­nesse Cuts Bar­ber­shop at 578 Main St. in Mid­dle­town just un­der two years ago. Al­ready his client list in­cludes NFL stars.

CAS­SAN­DRA DAY — THE MID­DLE­TOWN PRESS

On Tues­day, Var­gas’ 19-year-old brother, Jonathan Var­gas, got a quick touch-up with the clip­pers.

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