After a successful first decade in business. in the Back Bay, Abdou Benouardia, was looking forward to opening his second location of his Anfa Barber Shop in Dedham when the pandemic struck and changed everything for him.
Benouardia, who had previously worked at barber shops in Wellesley and Brighton, opened Anfa at 33 Gloucester St in 2010. He settled on the Back Bay as the ideal neighborhood to open his own men’s barber shop, he said, because of its heavy foot traffic, which brings increased exposure to tourists and students.
His hunch proved correct, and business grew steadily at Benouardia’s barber shop to the point where he soon had three other barbers working for him there.
But when covid came, all three of his employees went on unemployment and have yet to return to work, even though Benouardia has reached out to them and asked them to return to work on multiple occasions.
Even if they did come back, though, Benouardia, who now divides his time working as the sole barber for both his Back Bay and Dedham locations, said there is little assurance there would be enough customers to go around.
And while Benouardia said he sometimes has to turn away patrons from his Back Bay location, his income there is still only about half of what it was before the pandemic.
Dedham, however, is a different story,. “Some days, it’s dead,” said Benouardia, who added that the Back Bay shop is now what’s keeping his second location afloat.
“There’s not enough cash flow – it’s hard for me,” he said. “That’s my challenge now.”
Anfa’s plans for a second barbershop had been in the works for about a year and a half when he signed a five-year lease for the space at 702 Legacy Place in Dedham, which opened Oct. 2, 2020.
Like his Back Bay location, the Dedham barbershop has four barber’s stations, but the space is slightly larger at about 575 square feet, compared with around 560 square feet on Gloucester Street.
Today, Benouardia typically works 11 or 12 hours a day, splitting his time between his two barber shops. In pre-pandemic times, he worked eight-hours days, six days a week, never on Sundays, but even so, it’s better than last summer when addition to working as the sole employee of both of his barbershops, he also restored to driving an Uber to make ends meet.
While Benouardia did receive some money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, it didn’t go far since his landlord in the Back Bay offered him no reductions or flexibility during this time.
The landlord for his Dedham location offered him some flexibility in paying rent, although they also didn’t cut him any breaks.
Benouardia also pays $420 a month for his parking space in the Back Bay – an expense that remained constant even when he had no clients coming to the Gloucester Street location, like last summer when the barbershop had nearly no customers between mid-June and that September. (Following an initial rush of customers after he was allowed to reopen on May 28, 2020, patrons stayed away largely – a decision Benouardia believes was largely motivated by fear.)
But despite the many obstacles he has encountered, Benouardia remains optimistic about the future.
“I see an improvement coming and a light at the end of the tunnel coming,” he said.
Anfa Barber Shop at 33 Gloucester St. can be reached at 617-267-0605 or via email at [email protected], or, visit them online at www.anfabarbershop.com.