Following a change in career direction and work as a self-taught barber for more than two years, Isaiah Cruz decided in 2020 it was time to branch out and build his own business and expanding services beyond the traditional barbershop.
"We wanted to cater to a bigger demographic," said Cruz, attributing to Scarborough's diversity communities. He felt there was an opportunity to provide services for both the multicultural demographic, as well as become a "one-stop shop" to widen inclusivity.
This approach includes expanding the barbershop idea by hiring hair stylists and beauty technicians, which helped the shop stand out and avoid being male-dominated, according to Cruz.
After working in another shop and independently in his basement, Cruz felt he had the right team, experience and community to support this new venture, and transition towards operating a full-fledged shop in the Markham and Kingston Rd. area.
He co-founded District, a shop that despite opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has garnered overwhelming support from the surrounding area, old and new clientele.
At the heart of the shop's environment is Cruz's emphasis on fostering community and new connections, which he envisioned as central towards its image and vibe.
"It's hard to a find a place that stands out to you and fits your image, and for me it was so hard because, [as] a one-stop shop I want a good amount of space."
To promote the shop's image, Cruz and his staff have canvassed to other businesses to advertise there and build a sense of comraderie with them, including the local Popeye's restaurant, and independent places like the butchershop in the shared plaza.
As District celebrates its second month, Cruz and the team are continuing to find new ways to advertise the shop and the talent. This includes a strong emphasis on social media and creating a website that offers both greater accessibility and indiviudal profiles for the barbers, stylists and beauty technicians.
Listen to Isaiah Cruz's full interview here: