Owning his own record label, barbershop, and fashion line –– his own sneaker, no less –– doesn’t mean Everett George doesn’t roughen his hands. Fresh-painted interior and exterior walls, new shelving, original artwork hung and leveled, and an arched awning erected above the front door at Upright Barber Shop are testaments to George’s recent productivity.
He’s been renovating while on hiatus from performing under his stage name, Nice Major. The coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the city in April and May, including Upright. George plans to reopen on Friday with a new look and vision. Until then, he’s been spending long days “getting here early in the morning to work on the roof or climb in the attic or cut the grass,” he said. “Entrepreneurship never stops.”
The top of the front door scraped the bottom of the new awning and made a screeching noise when I walked inside the cozy building at 1810 Vaughn Boulevard, just south of Texas Wesleyan University in the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood. Seems George hung the awning a bit low. He looked sheepish while explaining how he’ll re-drill the holes and remedy the problem the next day.
Construction work isn’t his bag. George grew up in South Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s when unemployment, crime, and poverty were fueling street gangs. In 2002, he came to Fort Worth to attend barber school and cut hair at Upright, which was owned for decades by his grandmother, Betty Martin.
“She groomed me to run the business myself,” George said. “I’ve always been in the mix of everything that goes on here.”
Now, George owns the business and is transforming it into a multimedia clip shop, clothing store, live performance venue, and all-around chill place to hang out. Under Martin, the shop had a standard old-school look with five barber chairs in two rooms and little on the walls.
“It wasn’t funky like it is now,” George said. “I wanted to bring more culture to the shop.”
A mural includes George’s bearded likeness on the south exterior wall, a work by the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. TV screens are scattered around the walls to show music videos and films. Only one room will be devoted to barbering. George is filling the other room with the latest threads from his clothing line, VctryCrcle.
He sells VctryCrcle-brand T-shirts during his Nice Major gigs and wanted to expand his inventory to include hoodies, joggers, and sneakers at a brick-and-mortar site.
“I started to notice that my clothing sells out when I do shows,” he said. “I wanted to turn it into high-end fashion. I have the space for it. I don’t want just merch –– regular T-shirts. I want high-end fashion with really good material.”
George is a wizard with clippers, a popular barber for customers young and old in Poly. At 37, he is also a doting father to four children. He has helped coach his young son’s football team and mentors youngsters at his barbershop, including many of the student-athletes who attend nearby Texas Wesleyan.
Upright is located next door to Dos Amigos Taqueria, and both businesses draw plenty of the college crowd. A couple of weeks ago, I stood in front of Upright talking to George about his renovations, and our 15-minute conversation was interrupted three times by carloads of young TWU students who had pulled over to the curb to ask through their open windows if George could cut their hair.
“A lot of people have been waiting for the store to be open,” he told me after one of the carloads drove away. “I expect this thing to be packed. Those kids want to come somewhere where they’re safe and comfortable, and they can come and chill with old barbershop talk, football, basketball –– the same stuff that goes on in every barbershop.”
Also interrupting our conversation was a homeless guy asking for a drink and a day laborer wondering if George needed any handy work done. Vaughn Street has its share of poverty, vice, crime, and rundown properties, and the surrounding Poly neighborhood has earned its reputation for being a rough part of town. Things are changing, though, and much of the area –– just like George’s shop –– is on the rebound. Nearby Rosedale Street looks appealing with new roundabouts, sidewalks, and landscaping.
“Before this coronavirus happened, the Poly district was alive,” he said. “A lot of cars coming down here.”
While city officials have been investing in infrastructure, developers and entrepreneurs have been buying, leasing, and refurbishing buildings.
“It’s starting to really brighten up,” George said. “There are more businesses coming and flourishing. The area is going to be looking really nice in a couple of years. I think we’ll be [resembling] Magnolia [Avenue] or West 7th down the line. We’re right by a big college that is going to be expanding and getting a new football stadium and things like that.”
Similar refurbishing is occurring in South Los Angeles where George grew up. He sees similarities between the two places and has planted palm trees in front of his barbershop in recognition of his childhood.
“It’s super-cool, like a little L.A.,” he said of Upright. “I’m planning on getting more palm trees.”
He wants to host an exotic fruit festival, movie nights, poetry readings, and speed dating events. The ideas keep coming.
“I’m on my hustle taking care of business,” he said. “I don’t just go out and spend my money on jewelry. I spend money on my business. I’m having the time of my life. This is a blessing to me.”