By: Anamarie Shreeves
The atmosphere in the revamped Rattler’s Edge is satisfying. Sounds of old school Mary J. Blige seep through the speakers. A fresh-faced receptionist greets you at the door, and a sudden desire to take a load off blankets you. There is a bit of chatter as the licensed beauticians are engaging in calm, yet alluring conversations with their clients. One stylist talks to his guest about upcoming events, which he seems to be anticipating. While waiting for an open chair, feel free to browse the collection of KeraCare products - shampoos, conditioners, and serums that line a glass showcase. Salon brochures and clear plastic cylinders cover the clear glass display tops. Studded earrings and an assortment of colorful silicone rubber watches hang from fixtures against the window shelves. A mirrored wall separates the salon into two sections. On one side, two barber chairs are set up adjacent to glass display counters. The other is equipped with a stable of barbers, each one signaling to cop a squat in his chair. Within five minutes you are greeted by your stylist. The clippers begin to hum and he inquires about your day thus far. The Edge is stepping away from failed concepts of the past and innovating ways to sustain its future. In the past clients used to sit in chairs lined by the window as if they were waiting for their number to be called at the DMV. The setting was impassive, and on most days the salon was understaffed. Clients would arrive only to see owner Malik Miller scrambling to take care of the entire shop. Present patrons, like Justin Harris, say at one time the shop didn’t have much credibility on campus. “It pretty much had a bad rep,” Justin says, “and I never gave it a chance.” Justin, a senior business administration student from Tampa, says most men are choosy about their barbers.
“We (men) are particular about who’s getting close to our heads,” Justin says. “So the fact that they had a bad rep made me not want to go at first.” Consequently, it was harder for the staff to bring in new students because of the criticisms from upperclassmen. Now the campus is abuzz about new things happening at the Edge. The salon has eliminated the theme of a traditional barbershop. There are no television sets showing Sports Center’s Top 10. Boisterous men are not yelling across the shop about Smooth magazine’s latest asset spread. Miller, a FAMU alumnus, says there are purposefully no televisions in the salon to avoid stifling the conversation with clients. “We want to find out their likes and dislikes,” Miller says. “Open-ended communication allows me to learn from my clients.” The dialogue allows the staff to stay updated on hair and beauty trends. “I’m always open to suggestions and listening to my customers,” Miller says. In the past, the shop was solely for men. It now offers a wide array of services for women including coloring, hair extensions, “shampoo n’ styles”, cuts and natural braiding and locking styles. “There is an equal amount of attention on both men and women,” Brittney Blue, a licensed stylist at the Edge says, “But because of the past, women don’t know that we offer services for them.” The Edge promotes healthy hair, and Blue says this has helped her keep and build her clientele. “It is not about giving them something for the money,” Blue says. “If it’s something that will damage your hair, we will suggest other options and our clients like that.” In addition to expanding women’s hair care, the Edge has reduced prices for their services. Miller says the prices are set 10-15 percent less than the competitors.
Mikelo Williams, a senior political science student from Miami, says the prices have made him a faithful customer at the Edge. “The prices are not like the typical Tallahassee barber shop,” Mikelo says. Miller says he does a little bit of research on his competitors. “I have to go out and see what’s going on and what’s different,” Miller says. Miller also thoroughly scans people who inquire about employment. He makes sure prospective employees are licensed and checks with previous employers. “I believe if you have qualified people that are working with you they will give back the effort you put in,” Miller says. “They will create the right look for the client’s personality.” The beauty supplies available at the salon add a new accessibility for FAMU’s campus. “I want to conveniently provide basic, essential needs,” Malik says. “My supplies are need-base oriented rather than random stuff.” KeraCare products are available in addition to wrap brushes, rollers, clippers, and wave caps. The Edge is currently working to hire a licensed manicurist. “We’re in the process of looking for highly qualified nail technicians,” Miller says. Because Miller has invested a lot into his shop, he would like to see it grow outside the boundaries of the university. Miller views his shop as a black enterprise. He encourages keeping his staff in the black community without sacrificing quality services. “In the future, I want my shop to be a staple for the community…not just limited to FAMU,” He says.