The Brooklyn Barbershop That Survived Three Pandemic Events
Crown Heights’ X-Clusive made it through West Nile, swine flu, and a crippling blackout — but coronavirus is another threat entirely
Gerard Louisias Jr. was tired of waiting in long lines for a haircut due to the lack of barbershops in the area and was sure there were enough Black men who felt the same to start his own barbershop. It was December 1992, and he had never cut a single follicle of hair off someone’s head. X-Clusive Barbershop was born out of a desire of giving a community what it needed and deserved.
Every barbershop shares its DNA with its owner, and for X-Clusive, that’s Haitian-born Louisias. Referred to around Brooklyn as “Dee,” he embodies the staunch autonomy of a self-made man. He speaks with a gruff warmth and an arm wrapped around your shoulder, inching you closer to the wisdom being spoken.
“I treat every customer like a good friend,” he says. “I treat people with respect and always show concern about how their family is doing, how they’re doing. When you connect with people like that, you’ll always have a customer base.”
Inside X-Clusive, three leather barber chairs are positioned in a semicircle in front of two leather couches. The walls are tattooed with the New York Knicks logo, there are celebrity photos and barber stations with clippers, and extension cords and miscellaneous materials are strewn about. The inside is what makes X-Clusive special, but it’s not because of the decor.
This isn’t the story of a cool new barbershop with popularity buoyed by novelty. This isn’t even a story about a legacy barbershop shutting down because society moved too fast for it to adapt. This is the story of how a community built a barbershop to withstand anything life hands it — including a pandemic-prompted shutdown — told by the man who raised it from an idea to a sanctuary.
If you were in Crown Heights in early 1993, long before the Starbucks landed around the corner, you’d see flyers for X-Clusive, printed by its tireless owner, hugging light poles and…