Need a haircut? UMN student sets up barber shop at 17th Avenue dorm

The only thing missing from this freshman’s “business” is a real-life barber pole.

Adam Mikell works on a haircut for one of his frequent customers, Adi Mizrahi, on Thursday, March 6, 2017 in the 17th Avenue Residence Hall.

Courtney Deutz

Adam Mikell works on a haircut for one of his frequent customers, Adi Mizrahi, on Thursday, March 6, 2017 in the 17th Avenue Residence Hall.

Katie Lauer

On any given night, Adam Mikell’s Wahl Lithium Ion clippers can be heard buzzing in a 17th Avenue Residence Hall bathroom.

With barber pole striped spray bottle, barber’s cape, Andis T-Outliner trimmer, neck duster and clips, Mikell gives friends, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity members and other students at the University of Minnesota fades and trims.

“You could really start up a whole barbershop from Amazon,” Mikell said.

That’s exactly what he did.

Tentatively coined “Adam’s on 17th,” Mikell’s makeshift residence hall barbershop has started to gain traction both on Facebook and from word-of-mouth after about four months.

“It was really supposed to be just a funny thing for me to do to my roommate,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d cut anyone’s hair except his honestly, but people saw it and liked what they saw.”

Mikell didn’t know how to cut hair before his roommate asked if he knew anyone that did.

“I didn’t, but how hard could it be?” he said. “I borrowed a set of clippers from someone who lived next door … It was the first time I had ever held clippers, so I really didn’t know what I was doing at all.”

About 30 haircuts into the job, Mikell looks and acts the part. With his steady hand and confident cuts, the bathroom almost feels like an actual barbershop — if you ignore the toilet stalls and occasional shower running in the background.

Mikell even has regulars.

Adi Mizrahi, his “favorite client” and friend, was back for a trim just a week after his last cut.

“We did a one-and-a-half last time, so maybe a little shorter now?” Mizrahi said while sitting in the desk-chair-turned-barber-seat last week. “We should do the Drake on the side,” he joked as Mikell started to cut.

While the first-year marketing and entrepreneurial management major never saw himself as a barber, he now takes his “business” more seriously.

He’s spent over 20 hours watching haircut videos on YouTube and researching clipper reviews. Clients say they can tell he puts the work in.

“He works hard at it,” said Mikell’s fraternity brother Ron Levich. “He’s put the time and work in, but I don’t think anyone really expected it to blossom into what it is now.”

Along with research, Mikell said he’s learned a lot from continuously practicing and working with clients.

Since the first few cuts, he’s learned about different hair styles and types, the existence of hair splinters and even that people have a “bad side” of their head.

The 18-year-old also learned that he picked a good time for his unorthodox introduction to the world of hair.

“I do think, at least at this age, guys are starting to take a little more care of themselves and care about how they look,” he said.

This attention to appearance was evident in his other two clients last Thursday night. After a few different hair products and at least 15 minutes of standing in front of the mirror, they were finally happy with the appearance and volume of their hair.

Even with his clients’ personal motivation, he’s gotten more business and trust than he ever thought he would.

“I never would’ve thought that I’d be actually getting people asking me to cut their hair,” Mikell said. “It’s a fun way to get to know people, and I’ve met a lot of different types of people, all different majors that I wouldn’t normally be exposed to.”

For now, the 17th Avenue bathroom barber enjoys the work he does and plans to be in business for a while.

“I’m not the greatest; I’m not the worst,” Mikell said. “People are happy with it, and I guess that makes me happy. I think that’s one of the most fun parts for me — when you can tell people like it. They feel good about it, and that’s all I can really ask for.”