Haircuts and conversation are to be expected — but Montbello Barbers takes it a step further

Montbello Barbers, July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Chuck Sagere's shop, Montbello Barbers, is adorned with multiple images and symbols of civil rights struggles. July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; barber shop; montbello; montbello barbers; community; kevinjbeaty;
Chuck Sagere’s shop, Montbello Barbers, is adorned with multiple images and symbols of civil rights struggles. July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

There’s more to Montbello Barbers than haircuts and conversation.

“A barbershop is just a community gathering place,” Charles, “Chuck” Sagere said. Sagere is a co-owner of Montbello Barbers along with Gregory E. Allen. “Sometimes when we’re talking … we’ll open it up to everybody. Shop Talk Live is based off that,” Sagere says.

Shop Talk Live is a series of conversations that runs across the country — people can gather at barbershops and beauty salons to discuss issues affecting their communities, building, as Sagere points out, on the dialogue that happens there anyway.

“We keep it homey. It’s like walking to your friend’s house and we’re all sitting on the porch in the backyard and we’re just having conversations.”

Montbello Barbers hosts Shop Talk Live events bi-weekly. They’ve had conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, about President Trump’s election and it was home to a Ferguson response planning meeting.

“We do talk about things that go on in the community and things that require social activism. That (Ferguson) particular thing touched everybody,” Sagere says. “We’re an informed community. We can combat that before something like that happens.”

Chuck Sagere freshens up 11-year-old Adrian's hairline at his shop, Montbello Barbers, July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; barber shop; montbello; montbello barbers; community; kevinjbeaty;
Chuck Sagere freshens up 11-year-old Adrian’s hairline at his shop, Montbello Barbers, July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

That kind of conversation requires trust — and that’s something barbers specialize in, Mills says. Montbello Barbers has been cutting hair in the community for over 27 years, seeing clients from Aurora, Commerce City and other areas of the state.

“The barber has to know hair style, but there is this level of trust that is important in black barbershops,” he says. “The patron trusts the barber with his hair and any information that he provides. The patron also trusts this larger public with his ideas and stories. It is that trust that I think binds African Americans to African American barbershops.”

Sagere also notes that the shop has hosted conversations about the relationship between African immigrants and African Americans.

“I couldn’t tell you the basic cultural concept of what they do in Ghana, or Ethiopia, places like that. It’s different. I don’t want to make that be that much of a difference where I don’t want to speak with this person, or be in the same room, or stick my nose out and act like I’m better,” he says. “We want to break that down. We have our struggle and we’re all African so why aren’t we making a difference?”

He says making a difference is a big part of the Montbello Barbers mission.

“Our motto is to make this world a better place one haircut at a time. We’re trying to make the lives of our barbers and clients better,” Sager says. “It is more than a barbershop. For me it’s Montbello and Green Valley. It’s a place that made me want to be in Denver.”

13-year-old Isaiah gets a trim at Montbello Barbers, July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; barber shop; montbello; montbello barbers; community; kevinjbeaty;
13-year-old Isaiah gets a trim at Montbello Barbers, July 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)