TALLMADGE — Dean Lauer has a list of goals he wants to accomplish before he turns 20.
He can check one off the list: opening his own barbershop, Blis.
“We want everybody to feel welcomed,” Lauer, 19, said. “That’s our big mission is one, to give back [to the community], and two, make sure everybody feels at home whenever they come in here.”
The Youngstown native with a tattoo of a barber’s pole behind his left ear developed an interest in becoming a barber in his junior year at Cardinal Mooney High School.
Lauer had thought about playing baseball in college, but he said he became burnt out on the idea, as he’d played the sport most of his life. He found himself watching hair-cutting videos on YouTube “all the time” and considered making it his career.
After visiting Beyond Expectations Barber College in Akron with a friend who attended the school and talking with director Eric Garrett Sr., he knew becoming a barber was the path he wanted to take.
“Ever since the first day I went there, it just felt like the right place,” Lauer said. “Mr. Eric made it feel like home, and I knew from the first day I was there that was the place that I was supposed to be.”
After graduating from Cardinal Mooney in 2017, Lauer began taking classes at Beyond Expectations that May, commuting from Youngstown, where he still lives, for most of the program.
While in school, Lauer said, his passion for the profession grew “tremendously,” as he learned not just about cutting hair but about giving back to the community.
“That’s the biggest part is being able to give back and just building relationships with people,” said Lauer, who will turn 20 on March 27. “That’s really all it’s been about for me is meeting new people, being able to impact people’s lives.”
While in college, Lauer also learned about running a business. After he graduated in June 2018 as the school’s 62nd graduate, and with Garrett’s help, he found the space at 85 Midway Plaza in Tallmadge, off Brittain Road and West Avenue.
The space had formerly been a barbershop, so it didn’t require much work to make it into what Lauer wanted it to be. The plaza also includes shops like Goodwill and a beauty supply store, something Lauer said attracted him to the area.
“I live in Youngstown, and I could have done it in Youngstown, but I felt that I had a better opportunity in the city of Tallmadge,” Lauer said.
Mayor David Kline said he’s glad Lauer chose to locate his shop in Tallmadge’s Midway Plaza.
“I just think it’s a great thing for young people to get involved and do stuff like that, so I’m real excited for him,” Kline said.
Garrett, who opened the Romig Road barber college in 2013, said Lauer’s business plan to open his own shop was “amazing.”
“We just wanted to work with him and bring his vision to life,” Garrett said. “Blis stands for Best Looks Improve Success, and he’s adopted that, and he’s been amazing with it ever since.”
Lauer said as a barber, he enjoys the effect he has on the people who sit in his chair. He said he wants anyone who walks into Blis to feel welcome and leave feeling more confident than when they walked in.
“Whenever somebody sits down in the chair and after they get a nice haircut, they’re just ready to tackle the day,” he said. “They’re ready to do what they need to and get what they need to get done done.”
Services at the shop, which currently has two other employees, include haircuts, straight-razor shaves, beard trim-ups, facials, black masks and eyebrows. Haircuts for kids 12 and under and seniors 50 and over are $15, while regular haircuts start at $20.
In the future, Lauer said he hopes to add cosmetologists to be able to offer services like nails, eyelashes, perms and hair coloring.
Hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The shop, which had its grand opening Sunday, takes both walk-ins and appointments. To schedule an appointment, call the shop at 234-678-5495.
Next on Lauer’s list before he turns 20 is opening his own barber college in Youngstown. In the meantime, he’ll continue teaching twice a week at Beyond Expectations — Garrett said he’s the youngest student to become an instructor at the school — and working at Blis.
Lauer said it’s also important to him to give back to the Tallmadge community. He plans to set up free haircutting events in the future and is looking for other ways to help out in the community.
“We’re just trying to improve Tallmadge’s community as a whole,” Lauer said. “And I think it’s a big idea, but it has to start off somewhere.”
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.