Rico Peterson works effortlessly as he cuts the hair from a red-headed teenage boy. The smell of clean floors and fresh haircuts fills the air as Peterson welcomes me to sit and talk while he continues working.
Peterson is the proud Black owner of Headliners Barber Shop. The shop is located at 712 E. Sixth Ave.
Peterson’s barbershop in his current location has been up and running for five years now, and he doesn’t plan to move anytime soon. The original Headliners was located on Perkins. It was a hair salon more than a barbershop.
“I tried to make it go as a hair salon after the owner had passed, just in memory,” Peterson said. “(The owner died) Before I bought it.”
Peterson bought Headliners in 2005. He paid $30,000 in cash for the then-hair salon without any loans or borrowing.
“It’s funny because I was working for Rex Seven here in Stillwater and I was telling everybody, you know, hey, I’m going to buy a shop,” Peterson said. “I’m going to get into the owner’s box and do it.”
Peterson said the owner of Rex VII ended up firing him once word got around that he had plans to leave, which he said left him with a bad taste in his mouth.
“It was really tough for me to get a job,” Peterson said. “A lot of the demographics in my clients look different, let’s just say that.”
Peterson applied to Headliners and they hired him. He said once he was hired he worked for roughly a year, when the owner’s partner decided to sell the shop.
“Nobody had stepped forward, even the people that had been there for years,” Peterson said. “I had the money, I bought it.”
Within six months, Peterson moved his shop, because another hair salon was struggling. Headliners was well known, but once he took to the new shop and remodeled it, everyone quit.
He decided to move the location again, next to Stillwater High, but he continued to struggle, because he was running out of money after switching locations and remodeling multiple times. He couldn’t afford the basic utilities to successfully run his shop.
“So, the end,” Peterson said. “I got out of the business for a little while, I needed a break. I became a bail bondsman and upon getting into that business I got here, and life has been grand ever since.”
Peterson said being a Black business owner in Stillwater has its ups and its downs, as there are not many others.
“Most of the people that I hire have melanin in their skin,” Peterson said. “I would like to see diversity in my business.”
Peterson is from California and he says the demographics are very different here in Stillwater. He recalled that California had a lot of diversity, which he doesn’t get a chance to see.
“I’m not saying that we have a color problem,” Peterson said. “I don’t know if people think that we’re good at what we do. I mean we have our ghetto fabulous moments, I mean we do, let’s just be one-hundred, we do. But one of the things that I always try to tell people is that we want that white picket fence. We don’t want to be looked at as thugs. We want to do business just like anybody else.”
Soulful people is how Peterson describes himself and his employees. He said they’re not ashamed to turn up their music sometimes and have fun with their clients and each other.
“It would be nice to have diversity in my business,” Peterson said.
He urges any and everyone to come out and get a haircut from him, with open arms and ready chairs.