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Barber shop a test facility for Wahl Clipper

Multicultural shop celebrates 10 years in business

ROCK FALLS – The little barber shop across the street from the post office has a role that most people – even some clients – don't know about.

Phresh Kutz is a testing facility for Wahl Clipper Corp. products.

When customers come to the barber shop for a blow out or a flat top, owner Ben Phillips is sometimes testing Wahl Clipper's trimmers, clippers or barber combs and judging the tools' cutting abilities, power, motors and other qualities.

"Usually, I don't let clients know I'm testing something out because it's top secret," Phillips said.

Phillips, 39, also has two roles. From 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day during the week, he is cutting Wahl Clipper employees' hair and trimming their facial hair to test out the company's products. He works at the company's innovation center behind Candlelight Inn in Sterling.

Then he spends 3 hours cutting hair and lending an ear to clients at Phresh Kutz.

Phillips has been a master barber for Wahl for 13 years.

"They needed to fill a position for somebody who can promote Wahl Clipper and cut hair," he said.

Phillips and one of his barbers, Oscar Herrera, are part of the Wahl Clipper travelling tour, a mobile barber shop that visits about 13 cities every year between May and October. Multiple barbers share weekends on the tour, which includes two barbers, chairs for cutting hair, music and an emcee.

The barber shop at 207 Second Ave. will have its 10th anniversary on Friday. The shop has grown to have two barbers in addition to Phillips, plus a part-time stylist for women. It draws up to 40 clients on busy days, Phillips said.

Phillips has remodelled twice and added two flatscreen TVs to accommodate his growing customer base. He is also considering opening a shop in Fulton for his clients who travel all the way from Clinton, Iowa, for his services.

The shop's client base has changed with the community, Phillips said. The barbers are trained in all textures of hair, and the shop's customer base has largely been black and white, Phillips said.

But the shop has drawn more Latino clients with the addition of two barbers who speak Spanish: Herrera is from Puerto Rico. Izzy Serrano speaks Spanish as he has family members from Mexico.

While Spanish-speaking clients used to bring a son or daughter to translate, they can now come by themselves, and they often bring a friend, Phillips said.

"On Saturdays, the Hispanic community, they show us love," Phillips said.

That's when the shop is packed with Latino clients and Latin music is played, he said.

The shop draws younger Latinos as well, he said. Students from Rock Falls and Sterling high schools often come in for a cut before a basketball game, he said.

"I think it's awesome," Herrera said of the 10-year anniversary. "I think we got another 20 years to go. It gets better the older it gets."

Phresh Kutz

Phresh Kutz, 207 Second Ave. in Rock Falls, is open from 10 5: 30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Call 815-625-3153 for more information.

About Ben Phillips

Age: 39

Hometown: Clarksville, Tenn., near Nashville.

Family: wife, Missy Phillips, 37; four children: Denajah, 15; BJ, 14; Aryah, 12; and Kaedon, 6.

Education: Moline Barber College, 2001

Experience: Owner and barber at Phresh Kutz for 10 years, master barber at Wahl Clipper Corp. for 13 years.

Quote: "Being a barber is sort of like being a counselor. You hear everybody's problems. Some kids are in gangs, and I try to tell them there's something better out there. I've had clients with problems at home, I've had people cry in my chair. I'm cutting their hair and I'm telling them, 'Hey, everything's going to be OK.'"

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