But first he needs a haircut.
So Mr. Rosenberg goes to one of the few places still open at that hour:
the 24-hour barbershop Anytime Cutz. “Three a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m.,”
he said. “It’s where you find your friends before the end of your night.”
This is the barbershop that never closes. And that has made it something
of a cult institution in this Southern capital that relishes its fashion and night life.
With hip-hop playing softly through the speakers and a futon for taking
naps, the eight-chair salon caters to elite African-American men.
Celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal and the rapper Akon have
walked past the neon “Open” sign that never turns off, even on Christmas.
Other cities are taking notice. Over the past decade,
24-hour barbershops and salons have opened in New York, London
and Las Vegas. The customers are as varied as their hairstyles: parents who
forgot that a child’s school photo was the next day, travelers with red-eye
flights, people working two jobs, musicians and night owls.
Black barbershops are evolving to keep up with modern lifestyles and
an economy that forces many clients to work unusual hours, said Dwayne Thompson,
an Atlanta-based writer for Against the Grain Magazine, a quarterly publication
about hair salons. “These have always been fraternal places, where men can talk about the latest and greatest
topic,” he said. “This just takes that conversation into the night.”
Hair is big business in Atlanta, where self-described “celebrity barbers” promote themselves at
nightclubs with glossy fliers. Every summer, the city hosts the nation’s largest African-American
hair products convention, the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show. And when
Chris Rock filmed “Good Hair,” his 2009 documentary about the importance of hair in
black culture, he began in Atlanta, which he called “the city where all major black
decisions are made.”
The man behind the 24-hour barbershop idea is Ernesto Williams, 47, a longtime
hairstylist. In 2005, he and his wife at the time, Carol Lamar, opened a small shop that
shared a building with a 24-hour gas station. Customers would stop for gas or beer and
end up staying for a haircut.
The couple were relentless promoters. He would approach celebrities for autographs,
and then praise their hair and try to turn the conversation to his barbershop. He even bought a tractor-trailer,
installed barber chairs and drove to festivals to cut hair inside the vehicle.
Last year, in their divorce, Ms. Lamar took control of the store from her husband. She moved it to a
larger studio space and changed the name, from Ernesto’s Cuts to Anytime Cutz. A haircut costs $20,
but a $10 tip is added after 9:30 p.m.
“Everybody comes here,” said Cavario Hunter, the senior editor of Hip-Hop Weeklymagazine, who
was transcribing an interview at the shop one recent night. “Sometimes we don’t even text or call
our friends. We just come down here to find out what’s going on tonight.”
Barbers rent their chairs, so the more hair they cut, the more money they make. There is incentive
to stay all night. Many say they often work 24-hour shifts. And to owners, the only added costs are
utilities. “These chairs lean back,” said one barber, Mikal Muslim, 34, who goes by the nickname
“Mickey the Razor.” “You can take a nap between clients and then pop up and go back to work.”
In Las Vegas, a 24-hour barbershop operates near the airport. In New York, two 24-hour Korean beauty
salons have opened in Midtown in the past five years. And there is even a shop in Augusta, Ga.,
which has fewer than 200,000 people. That store, Kenny’s 24 Hour Barber Service, was inspired
by Atlanta’s store and serves late-night truck drivers stopping along Interstate 20.
Customers have adjusted to the concept, said the owner, Kenny Bryant, 62. “Walmart is 24 hours,”
he said. “The drugstore is 24 hours. Waffle House is 24 hours. The idea of 9-to-5 is dead, even for barbers.”