Around this time last year, Patrick Gibbons thought he had everything figured out. After spending his twenties paying his dues and honing his craft as one of Detroit’s elite young barbers, the 29-year-old put pen to paper and signed a five-year lease at 23908 Woodward Ave; his own shop.
Gibbons spent the next month and a half preparing for the grand opening, pushing the pace of a full-scale remodel to transform his Pleasant Ridge storefront into the barbershop/salon of his dreams.
He knew exactly what he wanted. Already, he’d experienced working at Goodfellows in Royal Oak and Union Barber in Ferndale – two of Metro Detroit’s most established grooming institutions. While Goodfellows operated on a walk-in only model, Union functioned oppositely, booking clients well in advance. Gibbons hoped to combine the two approaches in his own space; somewhere comfortable and casual but oozing with style and sophistication.
Hair Bandit opened in mid-March. The next day, COVID-19 brought the nation’s economy to a screeching halt, and without warning, Gibbons’ greatest accomplishment became his greatest challenge.
The lease was already signed. With no customers coming through the door, the new small-business owner grit his teeth, continuing to pay the shop’s rent despite an inability to accept clients.
But Hair Bandit wasn’t the only barbershop/salon feeling the pressure. It just so happened that his girlfriend, Deanna Caserta – an established hairstylist and cosmetologist – was in need of a new venue. Caserta spent the past three years working at Detroit Blows and Babs in Birmingham under the mentorship of Bashar Kallabat. Just prior to the pandemic, Kallabot passed away, leaving behind 25 years’ worth of clients to his protégé.
When both salons folded under the weight of the pandemic, tragedy provided an opportunity for the couple to join forces, combining clientele and effectively doubling their customer base.
“The pandemic crippled both of her salons,” Gibbons said. ”She was forced to find a new place. So, the pandemic really created an opportunity.”
And just like that, a male-centric shop in Pleasant Ridge became a unisex salon with equal weight placed on cuts, colors and blow-outs. The result? A business perfectly positioned to take off upon the city’s reopening.
“It’s nice that on our Instagram (@hairbanditofficial) there’s women getting their hair done and there’s fades being done,” Gibbons said. “That would have never happened had I not found a cosmetologist who was already doing women’s hair and already had a following.”
It’s a story of triumph over adversity. Of ingenuity and adaptation defying the odds. As Metro Detroit begins to envision life post-pandemic, the Hair Bandit crew forges ahead with optimism, style and an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I don’t hesitate,” Gibbons said. “I feel like a lot of people sit around. Wait around. That’s not me.”