Phoenix barbershop The Greater Good aims to build community downtown

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Phoenix barbershop The Greater Good aims to build community downtown
Phoenix barbershop The Greater Good aims to build community downtown

In the back of the hair salon hangs a painting of one of Ponce’s role models, James Zuniga. The artwork was donated to Ponce by a local painter who knew how influential Zuniga had been to Ponce.
Raphael Romero Ruiz

The hum of clippers and trap beats fills the long rectangular room while a conversation about what’s happening this weekend takes over the barbershop. All three chairs are occupied, some have taper fades, others have intricate designs dyed into their hair.

On the opposite wall are pieces from the store’s latest art installation: a collaboration born out of the role that Jessie A. Ponce, owner of The Greater Good, believes his hair salon should play in his community.

“The Greater Good isn’t for a person, it’s not for me as a shopkeeper. It’s something that affects the community, ”said Ponce. “This is the support system that people feel safe with and enjoy working with, you know? It all started with that. “

Space is invaluable in a symbolic and tangible way to a community that does not often have the opportunity to use it. To nurture culture and community, Ponce understands the importance of working together and sharing the space in The Greater Good that has been able to open up and nurture.

Sharing The Greater Good and working with creatives from the city has resulted in events like photo galleries, concerts and hairdressing workshops. For Ponce, The Greater Good acts as an organic incubator for creative talent in Phoenix.

From Los Angeles into the valley

The Greater Good is on Central Avenue near Roosevelt Row.  The shop has been open for over a year now.The Greater Good is on Central Avenue near Roosevelt Row. The shop has been open for over a year now.
Raphael Romero Ruiz

At 26, Ponce successfully opened his own shop in downtown Phoenix. But before he opened his doors in February 2020, he was just a young, brown kid who moved to Phoenix when he was 13. Ponce is a child of immigrant parents from Mexico who planted seeds in Los Angeles, where he was born. They decided to uproot again and move to the Valley when he entered his teenage years.

Many of the first people he met in Phoenix were hairdressers.

“When I first moved here, I never had to pay for a haircut,” said Ponce. It was a regular occurrence that his friend’s parents got haircuts when he went out to hang out. Cutting hair began to fascinate him as he was surrounded by it.

Only after graduating from high school did he realize that he didn’t want to work for anyone else. He then decided to become a hairdresser himself.

“I remember the first time Jessie picked up a clipper, I was this man’s first customer,” said Andrew Ponce, Jessie’s brother, jokingly. “He has grown so much since that day, always looking for growth and improvement.” Andrew Ponce is a creative and entrepreneur himself, and as Jessie’s younger brother they were inseparable.

Being active members of their community is something they share. Andrew Ponce believes this is because of her upbringing in her neighborhood.

“Having each other made it a little easier to withstand the temptations of our surroundings and stay on our path, but don’t get me wrong, we love where we come from. That’s what defines us, ”said Andrew Ponce.

Jessie A. Ponce got his first opportunity to become a hairdresser from a family friend who offered him a job, but only if he attended hairdressing school while he was working. He agreed, and soon found out that he was going to college to get a business degree, get a job, and attend hairdressing school at the same time.

Within four years he worked in three different barbershops before he could realize his dream of opening his own shop. A shop he worked in, Nippers Clippers Barbershop in Goodyear, was to shape his career and introduce him to his role model, James Zuniga.

Ponce had been interested in working for Zuniga for some time. The kind of person he was and the culture he cultivated in his shop was something Ponce respected and looked up to.

Zuniga died in February 2020, but Ponce has kept his memory alive in his work for his community.

“Every time he had an idea to give something back, he did it, and he made it really big,” Ponce said in a February 2020 interview. “He really taught me how to do everything in a targeted manner.”

“I keep telling people he was my mentor and he didn’t even know it was him. He showed me how to be a person of the community and used his craft to influence people, ”a lesson that Ponce has made the core of his work today.

Building a community through The Greater Good

Jessie A. Ponce, 26, is the owner of The Greater Good hair salon in downtown Phoenix.Jessie A. Ponce, 26, is the owner of The Greater Good hair salon in downtown Phoenix.
Raphael Romero Ruiz

Aside from organizing art exhibitions and giving the city’s young creatives the opportunity to exhibit their work, Ponce has also helped organize fundraising campaigns and projects in collaboration with other companies. A project called “Good People” focused on providing basic livelihoods for the city’s homeless people.

The Greater Good opened its doors just as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, forcing Ponce to close its store just weeks after it opened. It proved difficult to weather this 2020 storm.

“It was tough,” he explained. “The last money I could get I paid rent in May.” Between paying rent for his shop, renting his apartment, and other expenses, he began to think that if it had to remain closed for three more months, his shop would not survive.

He kept his will strong and tenacious and fought for his dream from childhood. Fortunately, with the help of his brother, they were able to get through during the lockdown.

Diego Octavio Marquez started working with Ponce after the lockdown when the store was able to reopen. He had been looking for a place where he believed he could grow.

“My morals, my ideology, my character have evolved,” said Marquez, attributing this positive change in his life to his time at The Greater Good. Spending time and space with the barbershop team left an impression on him that he would like to continue.

Having your own space has always been the goal of Ponce. When he received the keys to his business, he felt empowered and looked forward to the future. This room has now become a place where everyone is welcome. He is now looking to the future and how he can continue to build community through his shop.

“I want this to be a staple in Phoenix without a doubt. I don’t want the momentum to fade, I want to support our community, have a great team and offer great service, ”said Ponce.

Reach out to La Voz reporter Raphael Romero Ruiz at rruiz@gannett.com or on Twitter @raphaeldelag.

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