CONCORD -- All it took was one bad haircut for Kris Jaquias to begin cutting his own hair.
"They didn't listen," the 26-year-old Concord resident said recently. "After, I bought my own clippers."
Jaquias now is one of 17 students enrolled in one of the first classes at Urban Barber College, considered to be the only institution of its kind in Contra Costa County.
Nestled in a former Asian market at Park & Shop on Willow Pass Road, the college is the brainchild of Abdullah Hasani and Alejandro Cuandra, who met while attending San Jose State. The pair could not find work after graduating in 2008, but instead of giving up decided to go into business together and asked themselves a simple question: What was a service they and their friends needed?
The answer was clear. They counted seven barbershops in Concord and decided to open their own, Urban Cutz on Contra Costa Boulevard.
"I couldn't get a haircut if I wanted to on a Friday," said Cuandra, 26, of Walnut Creek.
"Seven male barber shops aren't going to cut it," added Hasani, 24, of Concord.
Then they ran into another problem: finding qualified barbers. The closest barber schools are in Oakland and Vallejo, they said, so they decided to open one in their own backyard. Urban Barber College officially opened Dec. 9 and is enrolling students monthly for its 10-month program.
On a recent day after class, the shop opened to customers looking for a bargain and willing to give students a chance. One man sat in Jaquias' seat and asked for a haircut similar to Prince Royce, a Latin singer/songwriter. Jaquias and the customer pulled out their iPhones and began searching for a picture.
Like others at the college, Jaquias considers himself an artist, likening cutting fade haircuts to shading in a sketch. Also like others, he first learned the craft cutting friends' hair and watching tutorials on YouTube.
"Some (customers) are picky," Jaquias said. "They want you to finish it fast even though you're a student."
Hasani began cutting hair in middle school, starting because he needed to shave his beard, which was full even then.
The college offers a contemporary approach to barbering but maintains the culture of the barbershop, which Hasani and Cuandra describe as part baseball dugout, part psychiatrist office.
Students' first stop is in the classroom, where they learn from Jerico Linville, 39, who once won hairdresser of the year in Ohio and was a stylist for the Golden State Warrior's cheerleading squad. Next, they practice on balloons and mannequins until, finally, they practice on customers.
Hasani and Cuandra, who poured their own money into the college, say they see it as a long-term investment and are committed to Concord. The money raised from their grand opening event went to Monument Crisis Center and was used to buy groceries for families, textbooks for English language learners and for breakfast at a senior event.
"We really want to be part of the community. This is a service, but at the end of the day we are here for the community," Cuandra said.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.