Joe Martin admits he’s taking a risk.
Martin, 31, plans to close his Martin’s Barber Shop on Main Street in Bellwood to undertake a new venture – he plans to open Martin’s Barber School near Huntingdon in September.
“I am not afraid to take a chance,” said Martin, who opened his barber shop in December 2006 after graduating from the Barber Styling Institute in Camp Hill.
Martin admits it was a tough decision to close his barber shop.
“This building has been a barber shop since 1953. I am selling so I can open the school, not because we haven’t been successful. For eight years business has been very good,” Martin said.
“It was a very tough decision because we have a successful business, and now we are starting over again,” he said. “It is the unknown factor. I’ve done research, and I feel it should take off, but you don’t know until you fill all the seats in the school.”
Martin, who will be owner/ director, said he decided to open the school because of a lack of barbers in central Pennsylvania. The nearest schools are in Pittsburgh and Camp Hill.
“In that area, there is a shortage,” said Matthew Schwalm, owner/director of the Barber Styling Institute in Camp Hill. “It will fill in the gap a little more. It takes a lot of time and dedication to get the students trained.”
Statewide, the number of barbers in Pennsylvania has actually increased from 3,179 in 2010 to 3,429 as of Feb. 1, and the number of barber schools has increased from 23 to 32 over that same period, according to the Pennsylvania Board of Barber Examiners.
Martin, a Huntingdon County native, found a building at 10722 Fairgrounds Road to house his school. He will rent the more than 1,800-square-foot facility from Jay and Linda Grubb, former owners of the Hesston Speedway.
Martin believes he has found a good location.
“There are enough people in Huntingdon to support it as far as customers,” he said. “We are targeting the State College, Huntingdon, Lewistown and Altoona areas for the students.”
Martin obtained his barber-teacher license in July 2013 and is now accepting students for classes, which are scheduled to begin Sept. 9.
“I can have ten students; that is what will be nice. They will all have one-on-one time with the instructor,” Martin said.
Classes will be held 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.
The course, which will cost about $9,900, will take nine months or 1,250 hours, which are state regulations, Martin said,
Finding a building was the most difficult step in starting up the school.
“The building needs to meet state regulations,” Martin said. “It must be at least 1,250 square feet of floor space. You also need parking.”
“You need to have the building ready to go before state inspection,” he said.
At some point, Martin would like to expand.
“I would eventually like to add evening classes, but would have to hire an instructor for that. We could have more chairs. You are allowed a maximum of 20 students per instructor,” Martin said.
Students will begin cutting hair on the third day of classes.
“The work is all done by the students. The instructor is not allowed to cut hair, but all work is inspected by the instructor,” Martin said.
“We will offer $5 haircuts for men and a discounted price for women. Walk-ins will be accepted. It will be just like a barber shop,” Martin said.
Barber school is a good opportunity, Martin said.
“With today’s economy there are a lot of people looking for a job and a career they can start for a low cost. Barbering is one of them. You don’t need to pay full college price,” Martin said.
Anyone interested in applying to the school should call 822-2045.
Walt Frank can be reached at 946-7467.