New Paltz entrepreneurs: Good Fellas

paul-brown-SQEighteen months ago, 27-year-olds Andrew Sairrino and Fabian Cruz achieved a life-long dream and opened Good Fellas Barber Shop at the corner of North Front and North Chestnut Streets in the Village of New Paltz.

As I chatted with these two young entrepreneurs, keeping in mind that one definition of success is “the progressive achievement of a worthy goal,” I was interested to learn about how they came to the profession of barbering and especially why they took on the risk of opening their own business. “My parents were hard-working people,” said Andrew. “We learned that we had to pay our own way. My uncle had his own barbershop in Hyde Park, and I always had a vision of owning my own business.” The two partners, who have been friends for more than half their lives, grew up together in Wallkill but often came to New Paltz to meet with friends and “hang out,” and had long envisioned it as the location of their own business. Both of these two Master Barbers earned their licenses and amassed thousands of hours of experience working for Andrew’s uncle prior to opening their own shop.

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of personal and business success. He stresses the importance of the family background of high achievers, idiosyncratic experiences during their childhoods and local culture. Gladwell also posits a “10,000-Hour Rule,” suggesting that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill is related to practicing the requisite skills for a total of about 10,000 hours. By my calculation, the years these young men spent in formal barbering classes followed by five-year apprenticeships at Sideburnz Barber Shop under the watchful eye of Uncle Joe Sairrino and his partner Thomas Irvin, have served them and our community well. Even before Sidebernz, “we were always cutting our friends’ hair, even in high school,” they told me. “We love it.” Having a true passion for what you do is key to success, again as reported by Gladwell and demonstrated by Fabian and Andrew.

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During our chat they were quick to show me on their cell phones the latest cuts being featured on Instagram. They are excited about their work and committed to keeping up with the latest trends while also catering to the more traditional preferences of older clients. The partners report that their customer base includes young children, Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers and several septuagenarians (like me). Gladwell stresses that generational differences contribute to life success, and these two men are clearly “plugged in” to what is important to all their customers.

Entrepreneurs are important to America. In the past five years, our country has experienced the longest streak of job growth since the mid-1990’s, and small businesses account for nearly two million of the roughly three million private sector jobs created in 2014. The Small Business Administration reports that, in the recovery period since the economic collapse of 2008, “more than seven million of the eleven million jobs created have been generated by startups and small enterprises.” But we should not take entrepreneurialism for granted. As writer Zak Slayback points out, “… the percentage of young Americans who are entrepreneurs dipped to less than 4% in 2015” (https://zakslayback.com/about/). This compares to 10.6% in 1989 when data first began to be collected by the Federal Reserve and 6.1% in 2010. Entrepreneurs in our country appear to be an endangered species, and those who have chosen New Paltz as their home are a welcome asset. For one thing, they bring with them jobs and they pay their fair share of real estate taxes.

Many readers of this paper will remember when the Wilmorite Corporation of Rochester, New York attempted to foist a rental housing project on our community that promised to provide 8.5 full-time jobs when built. The catch was that Wilmorite wanted local taxpayers to subsidize their venture by having the property taxes on the proposed $56 million real estate project reduced by $1.5 million per year for 25 years through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes arrangement. Local taxpayers would have ended up paying over $175,000 per year through increases in their property taxes for each of the 8.5 jobs that Wilmorite promised to create.

In contrast, Andrew and Fabian worked hard, took risks and created their own jobs. By renting access to their three barber chairs, they also provide the opportunity for at least two other barbers to ply their craft. They pay their own rent, their own taxes and their landlord pays property taxes each year, which support community services and our school district. Now that’s a bargain.

When I inquired about their plans for the future, I learned that in a few short weeks these two self-reliant young men will be moving their business to a larger location with off-street parking at 17 South Chestnut Street. Here they will have five chairs, which will double the number of additional barbers able to share access and satisfy their own entrepreneurial dreams. I wish them well as they move forward with their plans. They are Good Fellas in every sense of the word.

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