NEW YORK - Linwood Dillard is known as “Da Barber God” for his skills with the clippers and razor, but now he's also built a reputation for something else: putting his barbershop on wheels.
“Harlem’s first mobile barbershop,” said Dillard proudly.
It was an idea that originally came out of necessity.
Dillard had a brick-and-mortar barbershop on Lenox Avenue at 127th Street, but in 2017 the landlord more than doubled his rent.
“From $3500 to $8500,” he said. “That’s how much they raised it to.”
He says there was no way he could afford that charging $15 a haircut, so he prepared to close up shop.
“I was just sitting there stressed, stressed, stressed and out of nowhere I looked and an Access-a-Ride bus was coming by, I looked at it and the idea just hit me like this,” Dillard said.
It took him over a year to find and outfit a bus of his own.
“I went on Facebook and found this bus, it had blue bubbles all over it, it was a dog grooming bus when I got it,” he said.
He knew that for the $2400 he paid for it, the bus would have issues.
“Put the plates on and I drove it back, it was smoking all the way here,” he recalled. “I was like man I hope this thing don’t fall apart.”
With a lot of maintenance and TLC that included fresh paint, new floors, a battery power system, solar panels and more, he made it his own, and his old customers soon followed.
“He used to cut my hair in the barbershop first and then after they moved, everything changed,” said longtime customer Quay Scott. “He ended up coming back in the truck, we're still friends, we're still family, he's still my barber.”
Dillard has also started offering services to the community.
On Mondays, he gives free haircuts to men at a nearby shelter, and he's hosted events like backpack giveaways.
While for now the barber bus is mostly parked in the same place, Dillard says it will soon live up to its name and go on the road.
“I am about to start moving around in November and putting it on my YouTube and my Instagram, and letting people know I'll be mobile in the city.”
Dillard is already looking to buy his second bus. He envisions one day having a small fleet of them that can travel to neighborhoods across the five boroughs.