The buzz of hair clippers fills the room like a soothing hum. Pieces of kinky dark hair fall to the ground clump by clump, varying in texture and color by each client. The room is full of the smell of acrylic and nail polish as the nail technician paints each nail with careful strokes.
As students march through Armstrong Student Center (ASC), many fail to notice what is happening in the small tucked-away corner. Many don’t hear the eruptions of laughter or deep life talks that take place in the three brown chairs spaced evenly through the tiny room, or see the relationships that are born at the brown rectangular nail desk in the corner.
Although these things go unnoticed, with the door wide open, ASC’s new barber shop is ready to invite students into a place they can call home and where students of color can unapologetically belong.
Razor Sharp opened its doors to the Miami community on Nov. 5, 2018. The barber shop occupies room 1075, beside the Rowan Boutique in ASC. It has two barbers, a hairstylist and a nail technician. The price for a haircut is $25, while the prices for the stylist and nail technician vary.
Marquan Richardson, owner of Razor Sharp, did not begin his business pursuit with much knowledge of Miami University. After graduating with his master’s from Lake Erie College in 2017, he wanted to find a creative way to use his degree in business administration.
Richardson had been fascinated with the idea of becoming a barber from an early age. He even spent a part of his teenage years cutting his own hair instead of seeing a barber himself. Although he had a passion for cutting hair, he decided to go a different route after receiving an athletic scholarship to Lake Erie College.
Once he had his degree in hand, Richardson set out to open his own barber shop.
Richardson knew Miami had set aside a spot in ASC for a barber shop, but had not decided who would fill the vacant room. Richardson, who had already opened his first Razor Sharp location in Dayton, Ohio, was looking to expand his business to Oxford.
He also desired to create a space for black students on campus to call home, while being aware that the small town does not have many barber shops that specialize in the art of black hair.
“It’s not a large city, but it does have a decent [black] population as far as people who are on campus,” Richardson said. “[Miami’s] mission statement of wanting something for minorities on campus lined up with what we wanted to do.”
Richardson contacted Jon Brubacher, director of procurement and food purchasing through Campus Services, who assisted him in applying to occupy one of the rooms set aside in ASC.
“We felt that it was a good fit for the space we had available, and he was able to provide the service we were looking for on campus, ” Brubacher said.
Michael Ivy, a barber for Razor Sharp, has also had a passion for cutting hair since he was young. It was not until last year that he was able to finally pursue his dreams. Now Ivy works as one of the main barbers who services students at Razor Sharp. In addition to cutting hair during the week in Oxford, he also works at Leveled Up barber shop in Cincinnati on the weekends.
Although his schedule is constantly full, Ivy enjoys cultivating relationships with the clients that sit in his chair.
“The purpose of the shop was to give students a home away from home,” Ivy said. “I look forward to watching some of the students who come in as freshmen and watching them grow and succeed.”
Ivy also enjoys the conversations that he and his clients have during each appointment. This “barber shop talk” that takes place between a client and their barber has been vitally important for young black men as they grow into adults, he said, because of its ability to give them a point of view that may differ from those in their inner circle.
Junior Quiyanni Smith, Razor Sharp’s newly-appointed nail technician, also enjoys connecting with her clients. As a student who was not heavily involved with organizations on campus in her first two years at Miami, she has enjoyed meeting new students who come into the barber shop.
Smith thinks of herself as a “big sister” to the younger students that she services at the shop. She even gives clients rides to and from their nail appointments when they do not have other means of transportation.
She especially enjoys bonding with the first-years on campus and would potentially like to continue working at Razor Sharp after graduation.
“I [am] definitely going to continue this for a long time,” said Smith, “maybe even here at Miami University.”
Although Razor Sharp opened its doors not too long before Miami students left campus for winter break, Richardson said that the barber shop has received a decent amount of support from the students who have utilized their services.
Richardson’s goal for 2019 is to reach out to even more students on campus and make them aware that Miami has a barber shop on campus that wants to build relationships with their clients as they go through their college years.
“Our biggest goal is to let everyone know of our service,” Richardson said. “We want to build relationships and be an impact. We want to see those kids graduate and go on and be better.”
Prior to attending Miami, many students have had their hair cut by the same person for several years. Going to a different barber or nail technician can be difficult, but Razor Sharp tries to make this transition easy for students who are unsure about trying something new.
“It’s a very friendly and open environment,” Smith said. “We are all professionals. You’re not gonna get a service that you don’t like that you can’t be open and honest with us about.”
If you are interested in trying out Razor Sharp, you can call 937-546-7096 for appointment availability.