The Day – From bucket to barber chair: Tireless ambition and

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Waterford — At the age of 14, Jeffrey Zapata commenced his job in barbering to support his family.

“A plastic bucket was my very first chair,” he explained of his early years understanding the trade by reducing the hair of his neighbors and loved ones associates in Santo Domingo, the money of the Dominican Republic.

Nowadays, the now 40-calendar year-previous owns fifty percent a salon and four barbershops, which includes his newest undertaking, JBS Barber Spa, which opened May possibly 8 in the Crystal Shopping mall in Waterford.

With the new shop, Zapata tries to deliver experiences to gentlemen who are used to just a dry cut, offering washing, conditioning, styling and far more. There are scalp therapies and facials, as properly as shaves full with hot towels and a straight razor, and buyers can even insert a facial mask. Services start out at $30, although The Presidential package deal incorporates all of his services as perfectly as a shoulder massage for $100.

Through an interview this week, Zapata sat on a leather sofa wearing a crisp, white, button-up shirt and black vest in his shop, which is decorated in wooden, rope and industrial fixtures. He pensively mirrored on increasing up in a poor neighborhood. “I see we never have nothing at all on the desk. When I see my mom crying for, you know, we have to pay back expenses, and we have absolutely nothing in the fridge,” he reported he understood he had to obtain a way to support.

He attributes his achievement now to his religion. “God you should give me the prospect,” he would pray when living and doing the job in Santo Domingo.

But faith alone can not explain it. 

His spouse, Kendy, a childhood buddy, had moved to the United States and now was a U.S. citizen when they married in 2007 after four extended years heading via the immigration procedure, he was in a position to be part of her in 2011 in New London, the place he commenced working incessantly to guidance his family in this article and again in the Dominican Republic.

Close friends informed him to shift to a more substantial metropolis than New London, but, he stated, “the really like that I experience right here is accurately what I was hunting for.”

When he arrived here, he stated barbers were only open 5 days a week, and most shut by 5 o’clock. He took advantage of that by opening early, closing late and doing work nonstop. “I was working seven times a week straight for 3½ years,” he claimed, adding that within six months of his arrival, he experienced amassed shut to 500 consumers.

He was specifically grateful to his bilingual shoppers because he relied on them to enable him learn English — in particular phrases he needed to slice hair — because when he arrived, he spoke virtually none of that language.

He opened his initial enterprise, Jeffrey’s Barbershop, at 300 Elm St. in New London in 2014, the very same calendar year he became a U.S. citizen. He adopted that in 2017 with a store by the very same title on Franklin Road in Norwich.

Zapata is continually innovating and studying. He took a break from his very first two barbershops in 2018 to invest a yr in Las Vegas, Nevada, doing the job at The Artwork of Shaving in Mandalay Bay resort. He wanted to understand techniques in equally the career and the industry, so he could use them in his individual firms.

“I’m constantly searching — how can I do additional?” he mentioned, “How can I bring a thing unique to the field?”

Regardless of his lengthy several hours, he is focused to his group and provides back at just about every prospect.

In 2021, and all over again this 12 months, he was nominated for the Hometown Hero award at the Connecticut Barber Expo, the self-proclaimed major worldwide barber level of competition and expo in the planet, at Mohegan Sunlight. This year he received for his considerable charitable neighborhood get the job done.

Immediately after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, he organized a fund and source drive that loaded a 45-foot truck and raised $6,500 by presenting haircuts in trade for a monetary donation or an equal price tag donation of drinking water or other needed provides.

He also participates in fundraisers and situations through the place utilizing his skills to make a variation by offering totally free haircuts to students and local community members in the New London location and in Norwich, in which he and his spouse and children now stay.

Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst he was out of work when the point out shut down barbershops and salons, he preferred to uncover a way to keep serving to men and women.

He commenced producing video tutorials for social media on how to lower hair correctly. Finally, he invited viewers to submit their own films of pandemic haircuts they have been giving their relatives members, giving prizes to the video clips that garnered the most “likes.” He finished up supplying away 12 professional hair clipper sets to men and women in 4 distinctive nations, together with 4 sets below in southeastern Connecticut.

“I came with practically nothing from the Dominican Republic,” he reported. “Every little thing that I have is because of the neighborhood supporting me. How can I say no.”

He says his new location is likely not his very last but, for now, he is thoroughly centered on creating its clientele and providing fantastic service with the assistance of his wife and spouse and children, which include their oldest child, Kenny Peña, 19, who manages the scheduling, gross sales, consumer provider and social media along with Zapata.

Soon after spending years honing his competencies and sacrificing time with his household to just take benefit of work alternatives, and in spite of his relentless drive and get the job done ethic, when requested to explain the good results he has crafted, he simply just shrugs. “God is in demand,” he claimed.

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