A Central District community centerpiece — and a great place for a haircut, Earl’s Cuts and Styles is looking for fundraising help as it moves to a new location in the inclusively planned affordable housing development, the Liberty Bank Building, named to honor the region’s first Black-owned bank that once stood at the corner of 24th and Union.
For owner Earl Lancaster, the fundraising effort is about being able to handle the pile of costs that stack up when running a small business and trying to pull together a move to a new location after years of business at the soon to be demolished Midtown Center.
“The fundraising campaign will cover the odds and ends, helping with some new equipment since a lot of my equipment is older and making sure I have enough running capital for the move to go right,” Lancaster said.
The campaign has so far raised around a third of its $5,000 goal.
For Wyking Garrett, CEO of Africatown who helped manage the effort to recruit Black-owned businesses to the Liberty Bank project with Capitol Hill Housing, the fundraising isn’t a sign that inclusive development at 24th and Union isn’t working.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to really support and invest in a community treasure,” Garrett said.
But the leader of the nonprofit dedicated to economic development and maintaining and growing a Black presence in the Central District said more, indeed, needs to be done for small businesses facing displacement, and Black and minority business owners facing soaring costs.
“There are many challenges that small businesses and Black owned businesses face in starting and sustaining,” Garrett said. “That is the very reason that Liberty Bank was started — to increase economic mobility. Those issues live into today.”
The Liberty Bank Building, a six-story, 115-unit affordable housing development, opened in March. That Brown Girl Cooks will also be part of the mix as the development has emphasized recruitment of Black-owned businesses. Construction of the building was a boost for minority contractors with more than 32% of the work — nearly $5 million worth — going to Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise-certified providers on the project including artists hired to work on the building. 17.9% are African American contractors providing $2.8 million to Black-owned businesses, according to Capitol Hill Housing.
Lancaster says that the Liberty Bank Building’s backers have provided a great deal of help and even the developer set to tear down Midtown and redevelop the property stepped up by providing a temporary location for the shop while it waits for its new space in the Liberty Bank Building to be ready.
“Lake Union Partners is making the move easier for me by allowing me to set up a pop up shop in one of their spaces,” Lancaster said, “It was very convenient to have a pop up spot in their building as opposed to looking around the Central District for a temporary place.”
Lake Union Partners is preparing Midtown for a major new development that will create a set of seven-story apartment buildings with more than 400 apartment units and thousands of square feet of new retail.
Earl’s was initially planned to move into the Liberty Bank Building in March, but the move was delayed until July so the space would be fully ready to operate as a barbershop once Earl’s moved in. Lancaster said Capitol Hill Housing has been attentive to his business’s needs, making sure the final move will be smooth.
Lancaster says the crowdfunding campaign will cover expenses associated with moving permits, changing the shop’s address multiple times while advertising, and purchasing new barbershop equipment, an update Earl believed was necessary regardless of relocation.
Garrett says the moment is an opportunity for the community to invest in an important asset.
“With this type of campaign, it allows an individual make a direct action,” Garrett said. “It doesn’t stop us from advocating for policies.”
“It is an easy lift for people to be part of.”
Lancaster says he is proud to set an example for other small, Black-owned businesses in the Central District.
“It’s been a wonderful experience working with all the entities nearby and having hands on this project,” he said. “I hope it works out for future people coming up behind me planning to open small businesses in the Liberty Bank Building and the rest of the Central District.”
Earl’s Cuts and Styles is slated to move into the Liberty Bank Building to begin July. Learn more about Earl’s crowdfunding campaign at gofundme.com/earlscutandstylesrelocate.