Free Food: A Local Barbershop Steps Up to Offer a Food Pantry

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Devon Reynolds, owner of the salon, has also won Best Barber- and uses his skills to better the community. Credit: Tianna Manon

When Devon Reynolds opened Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon in 2016, he knew he wanted to do more than “just provide haircuts” for Rochesterians.

He wanted to use the shop to bring Rochester’s Black community together and help find solutions to common problems.

The most recent step in this endeavor? A community food pantry that’s run right out of the unisex salon, located at 1274 Dewey Ave.

In Reynolds’ mind, owning a salon is a privilege, but also a responsibility to help encourage people in the Rochester community to own their businesses, plan for their futures and start a financial revolution. It also follows in the step of the barbershop/salon being a key gathering place in the community where patrons can hear advice on everything from relationships to running a business. 

[Related] Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon: Bringing the Old-School Barbershop Back

“There’s no reason why there’s basically no black-owned gas stations or supermarkets,” Reynolds said. “We make up about $3 trillion of the spending power in the nation. We don’t have anything but barber shops and restaurants, but nothing with substance.”

The idea for the food pantry, which officially started up in January this year, came from the community forums the salon hosts the second Sunday of each month. During these forums, which are held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the salon, Reynolds says there are realtors, financials advisor and representatives from Trilium health there to help talk about common issues he sees in the Black community: housing, advanced financial planning and health issues like high blood pressure.

It was in these community forums that he started to hear a lot of local families were going hungry. He’s hoping the pantry will not only keep people from going hungry but inspire someone to open up a black-owned supermarket in the area.

“A lot of families go without because of pride,” Reynolds said. “Kids will be eating noodles and stuff. I feel like the only way the nation can survive is we feed each other.”

[Related] Food desert or food swamp? Why do our children have so few healthy options? 

IMG_7360So, Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon began accepting donations for nonperishable items: canned goods and boxed foods. Reynolds said if someone can donate a refrigerator, they’d also begin accepting meats to donate to families in need.

(*Editor’s Note: Within the hour of running the story, Reynolds received a donation of a freezer. He is now able to take frozen food!) 

For any local family that needs food, all they need to do is come to the salon while it’s open Monday through Saturday, 12 to 6 p.m.

“Just bring a bag,” Reynolds said, and they’ll fill you up with anything they can give.

Since it started in January, Reynolds said they’ve been able to feed seven families. To him, it’s his responsibility as a black business owner to build up parts of the community that are struggling, because he says nothing will change otherwise.

“One thing we lack in our community is financial stability; we really don’t have profitable black businesses,” Reynolds said. “It’s basically like we’re sharecropping in a sense. The community isn’t really yours if you don’t own any of it, you’re just occupying space in another person’s community.”

And it’s not just community forums and a food pantry; Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon also bakes Thanksgiving meals that are free and open to the public, holds free haunted houses during Halloween and gives out backpacks and free haircuts to Rochester children to ease financial strain during the back-to-school season.

“We’re just trying to bring that sense of pride back,” Reynolds said.

To contact Reynolds and the salon to make a donation, please call 585-458-5519.

 

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