This article was written by Ry Edwards
While many businesses are struggling and collapsing under the onslaught of COVID restrictions, one Camden barbershop is charging forward continuing the plan to make Camdentown a spot on the map. Houston White of HWMR (formerly known as “Houston White’s Men’s Room”) may have given fewer haircuts this year, but his business is better than ever.
Houston has been using the HWMR barbershop for 13 years as the epicenter for what he’s now calling a “cultural collision.” The idea is to have a Black barbershop that welcomes everyone. Just as you do not need to be Chinese to enjoy a Chinese restaurant, HWMR provides an opportunity for anyone and everyone to experience a celebration of the music, the fashion, and the welcome feel–of what White refers to as–“the ‘cultural heartbeat’ of the Black community.” Oh, and you can get your hair cut, too!
Even amidst COVID, White continues to follow his vision for a business that provides places to live, work and build community. This past fall, White led the community to raise over $40,000 on an Indiegogo campaign toward the future development of HWMR. The money is being used to renovate the building at 1500 N 44th Ave, and as soon as this spring, HWMR will be opening its next enhancement: “The Get Down Coffee Co.”
This new company comes out of a recent partnering with the “Dogwood Coffee Co.” across the river in Northeast Minneapolis. Though the renovations to create a coffee bar won’t be done until spring, the artisan blends of the coffee itself, sourced globally from places like Ethiopia and Costa Rica, just became available starting November 27. The new coffee company is a welcome addition to the HWMR banner brand that houses not only White’s barber chairs, but also a small retail outlet for his “Black Excellence” and designer clothing lines.
Houston White’s clothing brands keep growing as well. Last April’s edition of the Camden Community News featured an article about Houston White’s new sportswear brand called “VIICTORY” aimed at helping Black athletes feel more included in sports like golf and tennis. The VIICTORY line brings more colorful and textured expressions into the traditional polo styles that have long dominated these sports.
Only a few months later, Houston White’s clothing received another opportunity. Target Corporation was looking for Black entrepreneurs to help relaunch their Lake Street store. After closing that location due to severe damage done during riots following the death of George Floyd, Target sought to rebrand the location in a way that overtly welcomed back the community. They connected with Houston and he created an exclusive line under the “Black Excellence” moniker that has been selling since the Lake Street location re-opened on November 8.
Even as the world has been wracked by fear of a deadly virus and restrictions imposed by the government, Houston White seems to show no fear about what his future holds. He continues to show dedication to building his dream for the community of Camdentown.