Following a change in career direction and work as an independent barber, Isaiah Cruz decided in 2020 it was time to branch out, build his own business and expand his vision beyond the traditional barbershop.
He co-founded the District in 2021, a shop that despite opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has garnered overwhelming support from the surrounding area of east Scarborough, and from old and new clientele.
“We wanted to cater to a bigger demographic,” said Cruz, attributing to Scarborough’s diverse 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 concept by hiring hair stylists and beauty technicians, which has 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 this full-fledged shop in the Markham and Kingston Rd. area.
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.
Notable examples include building a relationship with clients and maintaining a tight knit energy among the staff.
To reach these goals, Cruz wanted a space that was both welcoming and can accomodate the shop’s range of services.
“It’s hard to a find a place that stands out to you and fits your image,” he said. “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 surrounding businesses for advertising opportunities and help build a sense of comraderie with them.
Connections include the local Popeye’s restaurant, Wingporium and independent places like the butchershop in the shared plaza.
As the District celebrates it’s first few months, Cruz and the team are continuing to find new ways to advertise the shop and the talent.
The shop is currently putting a strong emphasis on social media like Instagram, as well as creating a website that offers greater accessibility for bookings and indiviudal profiles for their barbers, stylists and beauty technicians.
Listen to Isaiah Cruz’s full interview here: