Q&A with Chris Krause, founder of the Men’s Room Hair & Beard Parlor in Cedar Rapids, voted Best Barber in the 2020 Best of the CRANDIC awards.
How long have you been in the hair-cutting industry and when did you open the Men’s Room?
I started cutting hair in 2006, so I’ve been in the industry for quite a while. The first shop I opened was in 2008, which I lost in the flood. … I opened [another] shop, then sold that shop, and then opened the Men’s Room in 2014, which was was really my first successful shop — the staff being just a group of friends that I’ve gotten to know in the industry over the years, and we all kind of formed together to make the Men’s Room, which originally had seven barbers and now we’ve grown it to 13.
What is the atmosphere of the Men’s Room?
I think the first thing that people would notice and the thing that kind of makes it most special is just the diversity of clientele that we have. Not only ethnic diversity but also in age and in class. We have teenagers and toddlers and attorneys. We have healthcare professionals. … We have a mix of every person that you could possibly imagine. They all kind of get along with one another … which is really, for me, the most gratifying part about the work that we’re doing, especially with the times we’re living in where everyone’s so divided.
We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to do, as far as bringing people together in one room that might not otherwise cross paths out in the normal world.
How has business been during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There certainly have been some operational restrictions and stuff that have been a challenge. We’re in compliance with the mask mandate, and we do our best to enforce some type of social distancing … and we’ve tried to switch to a more of an appointment-only model to reduce the occupancy a bit. We feel fortunate though because we have been probably doing 75 percent or 80 percent of revenues, so we’re able to stay afloat in terms of still being profitable and staying busy, but it has been a challenge to try to keep everyone safe and keep everyone at a safe distance.
What does it mean to you that the community picked you as the best barber?
It’s really a good feeling to know that people appreciate the work that we’re doing, and that we’re important to the community in that way and that they would think of us. It’s one thing to be respected just in Cedar Rapids, which is a challenge in itself, but also to be recognized in Iowa City, which is an area that we’re not even operating at, that’s a big thing for us — something that really makes us happy and makes us feel appreciated.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 289.