On Sunday, local barbers Chris Maldonado and Roberto Maldonado hope to make the cut as they test their skills against some of the best barbers in America at the Motor City Barber Expo at the Garden Theater in Detroit.
The barbers Maldonado aren’t related by blood, but they are kindred spirits when it comes to what a barbershop should be, and their Truly Blessed barbershop, located in the Windsor Hotel on Pine Street, is a testament to that vision.
“People assume we’re brothers or cousins, so we just tell them, ‘Yeah, we’re brothers,'” Roberto Maldonado said.
The two met at barber’s college here, but neither originally is from Abilene, although Roberto Maldonado’s mother, Marci Braden, is from Clyde and has lived in Abilene for years.
Roberto Maldonado grew up in Detroit with his father but moved here when he was 18. Chris Maldonado is from Austin and came to McMurry University to play baseball, graduating in 2014.
“It’s funny how God works,” Roberto Maldonado said. “We didn’t even know each other’s last name until we started barber’s college. We knew each other through mutual friends.”
Several of the shop’s seven barbers will leave early Friday morning for Detroit, where the owners will compete in three competitions. Chris Maldonado will compete in the fastest fade contest and for the expo championship. Roberto Maldonado will compete in the traditional haircut competition.
Chris Maldonado said the event will feature classes as well as competitions.
“From about 10 (a.m.) until 2 (p.m.), we’re in classes that are taught by barbers,” he said. “From 3 until 9 is the competition. We’ll be learning a lot of things.”
Neither Maldonado comes from a family of barbers, but both have definite ideas about what makes a barbershop. Roberto Maldonado called Truly Blessed “a better version of the barber shop I grew up with.”
“I knew at 7 o’clock Saturday morning, we’d be going to the barber shop,” he said.
They knew they wanted to open a shop in downtown Abilene and when they saw the Windsor space, which previously had housed a bridal shop, they knew they had the right location — although it took a lot of work to transform the former wedding dress shop into a barbershop with white walls and black accents.
Chris Maldonado said the shop is trying to reach not only older, traditional customers, but also younger patrons who may not have grown up going to an old-school barber shop. Roberto Maldonado said he hoped they could be role models for young people.
“I have an urban look,” he said, referring to his tattooed arms. “I want to show guys they can be professional and be role models to the community and still dress the way they want.”
The shop opened in January 2015. Four months ago, the barbers Maldonado purchased the lease to the adjoining property, knocked down a wall and expanded the formerly cramped five-chair shop.
The name of the shop was the result of brainstorming, and Chris Maldonado said it represents their philosophy.
“We were bouncing ideas off each other and this one stuck,” he said. “We wanted something different, more of a brand and more than just a haircut. We’re truly blessed. Everything fell into place for us.”