Fades of Gray aims to give back to the community
This summer, Elliot Park acquired its one and only locally owned barbershop. Fades of Gray now sits in the previously vacant storefront property at 715 S. 10th St., kitty-corner from North Central’s Del Kingsriter classrooms.
What makes this new barbershop so unique and special is not that it is the only barbershop in the Elliot Park neighborhood, but the heart behind who runs it. Julian Gray originally founded Fades of Gray in 1999 in the Minneapolis Uptown District. Gray has been cutting hair since he was 12 years old in Louisiana in order to make money to buy a pair of shoes.
“My mom used to give me money to get a haircut, but I wanted to buy a new pair of shoes,” Gray said. “So I would take the money to save it for a new pair of shoes and I would go to my friend’s house and cut my own hair.”
From then on, Gray practiced his clipping skills on his friends until he eventually started making enough money to quit his other jobs. Gray moved to Minneapolis, started schooling at Moler Barber School and eventually earned his master barbers license, which led to opening Fades of Gray.
Gray explained that what drives him after more than 25 years of cutting hair is the relationship and community involvement that comes along with being a barber. Gray’s heart for people has led him to go into many homeless shelters and cut hair for free. Some of these people have come back to Gray and informed him that they were able to get a job and get off the streets because of that free haircut.
Gray has also held events at his shop where he invited the youth in the neighborhood to come in and hear local police officers teach about how to interact with law enforcement and the community. He also gave them free haircuts.
“I wear a lot of hats as a barber,” Gray said. “Sometimes I consider myself a psychiatrist too!”
The consistent clientele of Fades of Gray come from a variety of backgrounds including doctors, lawyers and professional athletes. Even corporate executives have stayed with Gray over the years including Wendell Maddox, CEO of Ion Corporation, a primary engineering company that provides services to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and NASA.
Genuine relationships, passion for the community, overall kindness and quality of service bring Gray’s clients back after so many years. According to Gray, there are around 15 individuals who have stayed with him since he started his business 25 years ago. Bill Green, director of multicultural and international affairs at North Central University, has been getting his hair cut by Gray for 25 years.
“When I used to work at St. Olaf College, Julian would drive 40 miles to the school in order to cut these students’ hair because there was no barber in the area,” Green said. “He would even charge significantly less to the students because he wanted to help them out. That’s the heart of a man that believes in people and the community.”
According to Gray, the most important thing about what he does “is the people around me,” he said, along with “keeping God at the center of life, because that’s the most important thing.”
Fades of Gray will leave you with a fresh haircut and a full heart.