West Florissant Report: For barbershop, traditionally busy month turns sour

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Branden Turner had never seen anything like it, except for on TV.

Turner, 25, was in his sixth month as a barber at Prime Time Beauty & Barber Shop on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson when a QuikTrip roughly 500 yards away from his shop was destroyed by fire on Aug. 11, two days after Michael Brown’s death.

August was usually a good business month for Prime Time, because school kids would come in for a fresh haircut before the start of the school year. Antonio Henley, the shop’s owner, founded Prime Time in 1995. Each year, he would offer a special August discount for students: A haircut for $8.

But the shop didn’t see its usual August uptick last year. “We had no choice but to be outside watching everything, because business, like, stopped completely,” Turner said. “They shut streets down and scared people off.”

The West Florissant Report: A major artery running through Ferguson, West Florissant Avenue became an epicenter of protests, violence and destruction over the final months of 2014. One year after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, which sparked that unrest, Missouri Business Alert visited with businesses located on or near West Florissant to learn about the last year and what the future holds for Ferguson.

When boisterous crowds came by, Turner and his colleagues would stand outside and emphasize that Prime Time is a black-owned business, so that rioters wouldn’t break in and cause damage.

In a normal business day, Turner said, Prime Time has about 20 customers. During the unrest, a good day brought five customers to the shop. Business remained sluggish until January, Turner said, and traffic now is back to about 70 percent of what it was before last August.

This year, Turner said Prime Time would offer a new August deal: The shop planned to give free haircuts to school kids on Sunday, in memory of Michael Brown.

“As a Ferguson business, we have to tend to the community,” Turner said. “That’s what it is all about.”

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