Barber shop LA City Clips in Boyle Heights thrives

(From left) Rene Escapiti, 11, a sixth grader at El Sereno Middle School and his older brother Richard Lepe, 17, who is a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, wait in front of LA City Clips, a barber shop in Boyle Heights, to open on March 25. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
(From left) Rene Escapiti, 11, a sixth grader at El Sereno Middle School and his older brother Richard Lepe, 17, who is a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, wait in front of LA City Clips, a barber shop in Boyle Heights, to open on March 25. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

Starting a business takes courage, creativity and an understanding of market saturation. But Alonso Romo, 26, was only motivated by two things: he wanted to cut hair and not have a boss.

He opened up LA City Clips on Fourth Street in Boyle Heights seven months ago.

Success or failure was not part of the decision-making process, Romo said.

Although there are several hair salons and barber shops all over East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, he decided on adding another one to the roster. One thing that gave him an advantage over other business start-ups was that he already had clientele.

Romo, a lifelong resident of Boyle Heights, started cutting hair in his family’s backyard six years ago. First and foremost he was an artist, drawing illustrations and designs. He picked up the clippers to cut designs on his friend’s hair.

“It was actually a hobby,” Romo said. “I was doing hair designs (where you do a figure on someone’s head). Since I was a kid, I liked drawing whatever I saw.”

Romo’s clients were impressed and he began charging. Haircuts were $5. Eventually, more people started coming by his backyard for haircuts. His makeshift canopy barber shop, equipped with his first barber chair is still there, coated in layers of dust.

He increased his price to $7, and it stayed that way for a while. Friends and family encouraged him to enroll in barber school. He saved up money from cutting hair, graduated from barber school and opened up LA City Clips – with every last dime coming out of his own pocket.

“I didn’t take out any bank loans,” Romo said.

His dedicated customers followed him to his barber shop. There is only one other barber, Edgar Garcia, 19, who works alongside Romo. Garcia has been cutting hair for four years and started working with Romo four months ago.

Allen Camacho, 15, is a student at neighboring Theodore Roosevelt High School just a few blocks away. He has been a regular customer at LA City Clips for the past two months, first having found out just by walking by.

“I just saw that it was open so I just came in and tried it out,” he said. “I like it that’s why I keep coming back. I usually get a tapper, a low-fade.”

He gets his haircut every two or three weeks, taking advantage of the weekly student discount Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Most customers know Romo on a first-name basis, some of whom are also avid basketball fans and players. LA City Clips is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday. Sundays they are closed, and Romo can usually be found playing basketball with some of his customers and cousins at Evergreen Park just a few blocks away.

As an avid Los Angeles Clippers fan, Romo takes a lot of inspiration from the team. Known as the city’s underdog team in the shadow of the Lakers, for Romo and others alike, the loyalty to the Clippers is almost religious. He sees his shop in the same way – the talent and potential to be great just as long as there is loyalty.

“The name LA City Clips, I got that from the Clippers,” Romo said. “Clips” has double meaning: the barber’s clippers and the basketball team, he said.

Alonso’s brother, Rafael, has been instrumental in supporting him. Rafael has experience running his own small company that specializes in family party organizing.

Much of the store’s aesthetic can be attributed to Rafael’s eye for design.

“We went for a more trendy, a more classy look, so that it can be a little bit more presentable,” he said. “So people can go in and see something different.”

Alonso Romo, 25, also known as "Cinna," cuts a customer's hair at his barber shop LA City Clips in Boyle Heights on March 25. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
Alonso Romo, 26, also known as “Cinna,” cuts a customer’s hair at his barber shop LA City Clips in Boyle Heights on March 25. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

Romo gives a customer a buzz cut fade at his barber shop. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
Romo gives a customer a buzz cut fade at his barber shop. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

Romo  cuts Richard Lepe's hair at his barber shop. Lepe has been a loyal customer since the shop opened up seven months ago.
Romo cuts Richard Lepe’s hair at his barber shop. Lepe has been a loyal customer since the shop opened up seven months ago. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

(From left to right) Edgar Garcia, 19. takes a break in between customers at LA City Clips. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
(From left to right) Edgar Garcia, 19. takes a break in between customers at LA City Clips. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

Romo first started cutting hair in the backyard of his family's home six years ago in a makeshift barber shop covered with a canopy. One of his first big purchases while he began cutting hair was this red barber chair.
Romo first started cutting hair in the backyard of his family’s home six years ago in a makeshift barber shop covered with a canopy. One of his first big purchases while he began cutting hair was this red barber chair. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

Antwan, 6, son of Alonso Romo, rides his bike at his family's backyard. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
Antoine, 3, son of Alonso Romo, rides his bike at his family’s backyard. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

The Romo family share a single-story home in Boyle Heights where three generations of family members live under one roof. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
The Romo family share a single-story home in Boyle Heights where three generations of family members live under one roof. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

Romo is a die-hard Los Angeles Clippers fan. He collects Clippers memorabilia, such as posters, shirts and hats. His loyalty to the team was a huge factor in his barber shop, LA City Clips. "Clips" has a double meaning, one for barber clippers and also for the basketball team, Romo said. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
Romo is a die-hard Los Angeles Clippers fan. He collects Clippers memorabilia, such as posters, shirts and hats. His loyalty to the team was a huge factor in his barber shop, LA City Clips. “Clips” has a double meaning, one for barber clippers and also for the basketball team, Romo said. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

Romo has been together with his girlfriend Angelica Chavez, 22, since high school. In addition to sharing a roof with three different generations of the Romo family, they have several dogs. One of which is Snoopy, the house guard dog. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
Romo has been together with his girlfriend Angelica Chavez, 22, since high school. In addition to sharing a roof with three different generations of the Romo family, they have several dogs. One of which is Snoopy, the house guard dog. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter

 

When he's not cutting hair--he closes his shop on Sundays--Alonso Romo likes to play basketball at Evergreen Park in Boyle Heights with his friends, many of which are regular customers to his barber shop. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter
When he’s not cutting hair–he closes his shop on Sundays–Alonso Romo likes to play basketball at Evergreen Park in Boyle Heights with his friends, many of which are regular customers to his barber shop. Photo credit: Luis Rivas / Senior Reporter