The Making of Barber To The Stars: By G. M. Burns
Upon first arriving in Houston more than 2 years ago, I immediately set about doing what many urban professionals would do; I looked for a home, a church and a place to get my hair cut. I began my search online where I found Nick Howard and Salon Nicholas. So what makes this find so special? Well to quote one of his signature tee-shirts, “It must be the Cut!”
Nicholas Howard, aka “Barber to the Stars” is a successful entrepreneur and businessman. As the owner operator of Salon Nicholas, one of Houston’s premier barber studios, Nick offers his customers superior grooming services in a convenient and trendy area of Houston. But like many successful people, Nick’s career path was driven in part by happenstance.
While attending college at Prairie View A&M University, where he earned a degree in Business Administration, Nick who had developed a talent for cutting hair – and a skill for generating income– was sought out for a last minute cut by his roommate who had been selected to participate in the BET Campus All-Star Challenge, a televised academic event featuring students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Roommate “Guru” wanted to look good for the cameras and he needed Nick to make that happen. The event turned out to be a defining moment for Nick, “I saw my work on TV and I knew that millions of people were watching. That’s when I knew I wanted to show my skills to the country.”
After graduating from Prairie View A&M University, Nick continued his professional development by attending Southeast Barber College. It was here that he began to bring his informal training and experience together with his formal training and business acumen to form the foundation of his entrepreneurial vision. After paying his dues working for another barbershop, the real journey began with the start of Salon Nicholas in 1999.
Almost immediately, Nick began to seek ways to expand his vision and further differentiate himself from the competition. One such venture led to the creation and publication of the Barber Dolls Calendar, “sexiest barbers ever” a tasteful pictorial, featuring attractive women – many of whom are clients– in a barber studio setting. Some of the ladies have gone on to have budding careers as models and the calendar was well received and featured in several media venues including AM radio station KCOH and Black Men Magazine and Street Flava TV.
So how exactly did Nick become, “The Barber to the Stars?” Again happenstance and a reputation for talent made the difference. Fresh out of Southeast Barber College, through a mutual friend, Nick met the members of H-Town, a Houston based Grammy winning R&B group. Knowing that Nick was skilled with the clippers, the artists called on him to tighten up their haircuts for a performance on Soul Train and SINBAD Late Night Show. Nick opened up his house, got out his equipment and went to work. At the end of the evening, everyone was looking good and Nick had his first taste of celebrity exposure…a taste he would become very familiar with. “There’s no formula or anything.
I was just at the right place, at the right time and knew the right people that knew the right people, if that makes sense.” From where this writer is sitting, when a reputation results in calls for service from guys like Michael Bivens and Ludacris, both of whom have been in Nick’s chair, I’d say he’s making plenty of sense!
An avid sports fan himself, it should come as no surprise that today, Nick counts numerous sports celebrities among his clientele. Nick claims Gary Payton as his first notable NBA customer. They met several years ago when Nick’s cousin, Stephen Howard, who also played for the Jazz/ SuperSonics, called to say that the team would be in town for a game and needed cuts. One by one team members took to the chair and Nick did his thing. This story and others like it have played themselves out over and over again for Nick. Video shoots and photo shoots “One experience after another10yrs later, that’s how I became the barber to the stars. In 2006 I trademarked the name and logo. Let it be known that I’m not the only barber doing what I do, but there’s only one Barber to the Stars trademark.”
These days, in addition to his studio business, Nick is also the official locker room barber for the Houston Texans professional football team. While he loves this aspect of his business, Nick can’t help but express the bitter sweet reality of the ever changing roster of any professional sport. “The Houston Texans locker room has been a revolving door for many players, but I’m proud to say that I am one of the constants in that locker room. Since the franchise was built in 2001, Nick mentions” I’ve cut most of the players who have played for the Texans.”Texans GM says” he’s the best barber I’ve ever had”
Today, the client list for Barber To The Stars is a virtual “who’s who” of sports figures and local celebrities. Autographed photos of athletes, musicians, television personalities and others line the walls of his studio. “I take the barber business seriously. It’s what I do and what I love doing it. I enjoy seeing the smiling faces when I’m done. People get so much satisfaction and self-esteem when they have a fresh cut.” Nick is becoming more and more of a celebrity himself. He has been interviewed by and featured in a number of industry journals. He is also a regular contributor to Against the Grain magazine. His reputation and that of Barber to the Stars has recently led to a sponsorship agreement with Rockport Shoes. Just recently he was featured in the barber’s corner of Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine.
Despite his success and personal relationships with some of the Houston’s and the country’s most successful stars, Nick continues to be down- to-earth and approachable. His unassuming nature and warm smile make a visit to his chair a great experience. So, if you want to feel like a star with or without a hit record, winning touchdown or NBA championship ring; I’d recommend a visit to Barber To The Stars.