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New barbershop targets underserved clients

Looking to snip up something new in Yellowknife, the owners of LJJ Barber Shop are promoting their expertise in working with Black hair.
LJJ Barber Shop owners Jonel Louis-Jean, left, and Diana Lubansa look to provide a quality cut for those who may not be happy with their current hair-cutting situation in the community. The couple say that business has picked up since their Jan. 4 opening. Ethan Butterfield/NNSL photo

Looking to snip up something new in Yellowknife, the owners of LJJ Barber Shop are promoting their expertise in working with Black hair.

Located inside Aurora Village headquarters at at 4709 Franklin Ave., the husband and wife duo of Jonel Louis-Jean and Diana Lubansa run the shop. They are hoping to address difficulties they had in finding someone locally who could properly style Black hair.

“We just had problems finding the right barber or the right hairdresser,” said Lubansa. “We had conversations with a few people around town who expressed the same concerns for the same hardship and situation, not having the right person to get their hair done.

“Black hair is very complex,” she said. “It’s very difficult to work with Black hair. You can see my hair has very fine curls, so it’s not the same as straight hair. Straight hair is much easier. So it has to be somebody who really knows and understands our type of textured hair.”

Lubansa, who moved to Yellowknife from Toronto in 2012, met Louis-Jean, who had arrived from Montreal in 2017, in September 2018. From there, they discussed their common dilemma, which eventually led to the idea for a new barber shop.

“We wanted to create and build something that is universal, but also representing the minority,” said Lubansa. “The Black population has been underserved in this community for so long in terms of hair, so we wanted to bridge that gap.”

The opening of the barbershop, which happened on Jan. 4, took longer than expected for the duo as another location they scouted on 49 Street fell through.

According to Lubansa, the combination of the shop’s delayed opening and the lack of work that came along with that led her husband into a depressive spiral.

“Nothing interested him,” she said. “He was sad, not happy, not eating or sleeping.”

Following the opening, Louis-Jean, who serves as the master barber, is now thrilled to be working again — helping people walk away with a new hair-do and smile.

“The first thing we really look for is the satisfaction of the client,” he said. “We don’t just have the client and then five to 10 minutes and then go, go, go, then say, ‘OK, we’re done.’”

After a slower start, the business has gradually gained a foothold, they said.

“We’re gonna keep working to make a difference,” said Louis-Jean. “That is our priority. And me, I like the competition.”

“We’re looking for quality, not quantity, quantity will come,” said Lubansa.