Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
It’s barely been three years since Victor Fontanez was a South View High School senior with a dream.
Today he’s a barber to celebrities based in Atlanta and looking to continue growing his brand at the still youthful age of 20.
His story starts like the story of a lot of young people from his generation. As he approached his final days at South View, his plan was to follow the path of many of his classmates and enroll in college.
All his fees were paid at UNC-Pembroke and he was about to enroll when he started thinking of ways to make some money on the side to fund his college dreams.
He was working at a restaurant in Hope Mills, washing dishes and waiting tables, but he didn’t plan to continue that job in college, so sitting in the chair at his barber’s one day, he asked the barber for advice.
“He told me if I learned to cut hair, I could make money the rest of my life,’’ Fontanez said.
So in his senior year, he started giving haircuts in his mother’s garage and planned to continue doing the same thing during his college days to serve as a way to make a few dollars on the side.
But something happened. Cutting and styling hair became more than a way to make money. Fontanez found himself falling in love with what he was doing.
“By the time I was ready to graduate, I knew this was the path I wanted to take,’’ he said. “God definitely put me on that path.”
At the last second before enrolling at UNC-Pembroke, he got all of his money for his college tuition refunded. He went to Fayetteville Technical Community College, enrolled in barber school, and as he put it, never looked back.
Upon graduation from FTCC, he took a job at a small shop in Hope Mills and continued to hone his skills.
After about eight months there, he realized if he wanted to continue to grow his brand, Hope Mills wasn’t going to be a large enough arena for him to compete in.
“You’ve got to feed the beast,’’ he said. As much as he loved home, he felt the need to pursue wider opportunities for himself.
He saw Atlanta as a perfect fit. “It was close to home and still a Southern state,’’ he said, “plus all the opportunity for celebrity clientele and athletes.’’
He moved there cold turkey, as he put it, with no family or friends to turn to for assistance, save one important contact.
One day while he was still working at the restaurant in Hope Mills, a young man who had recently been chosen in the NBA draft happened to stop by the restaurant to eat. It was Dennis Smith Jr., who currently plays for the New York Knicks.
When Smith went to the restroom, Fontanez waited outside to introduce himself.
He told Smith that he was a barber, and that if Smith ever needed to have his hair styled to look him up. Fontanez reached in his wallet and pulled out the last business card he had and handed it to Smith.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about building relationships,’’ Fontanez said. Since that meeting, Smith has been a friend and supporter of Fontanez and his business. While Smith was with the Dallas Mavericks, Fontanez flew to Dallas and cut hair for the team prior to one of its media day events.
He’s got a long list of celebrity clients, including stars like the rapper Nelly, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and the body guard of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, among others.
Fontanez said as far as what kind of stylist he is, you can’t limit it to a single cut or type of client. “Every haircut is individually designed for that person,’’ he said. “There isn’t one style for everybody.’’
If he has a preferred style, Fontanez said he leans toward clean, shaped lines. But his real concern, beyond making sure each customer has the right look, is continuing to build his brand in Atlanta and beyond.
“I believe in God’s pace,’’ he said. “I can’t really tell where I’m going to be next. As soon as I finish accomplishing what I need to accomplish in Atlanta, another door will open for me. For right now, I’m focused on what I need to get done in Atlanta.’’
In addition to his job as a hair stylist, Fontanez continues to grow his name in his role as an ambassador for BaByliss PRO, a line of hairstyling tools affiliated with Conair.
Looking to the near future, Fontanez wants to set up a foundation to hold workshops in Fayetteville and other cities to show other young people like himself how to become entrepreneurs and turn their craft into a brand like he has.
“It started out with just being able to give somebody a haircut,’’ Fontanez said. “I made them look good and feel good. Now I want to share that message across the world and affect other people in different parts of the world.
“I enjoy the impact. I feel I’ve been given a lot.’’
Picture 1: Rapper Nelly (left) with Victor Fontanez (right)
Picture 2: Atlanta Hawks basketball player Trae Young
Tuesday, 04 February 2020
Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
Editor's note: When the following article was written, the Parish House had not yet been torn down. The house was demolished on Jan. 28.
Hope Mills Mayor pro tem Kenjuana McCray and commissioner Pat Edwards are both weary of a group of town citizens who continue to point fingers and complain about plans to demolish the Parish House donated to the town by the former Christ Episcopal Church.
Both agree that now that the current board has twice voted to have the building torn down, it’s long past time for the town to move forward on multiple projects that will preserve the true history of the mill village.
McCray noted that many of those who support saving the Parish House were members of the Hope Mills Historical Preservation Commission. Multiple members of that organization either resigned or did not re-apply to remain on the commission after the last election when McCray was elected and both Edwards and Mayor Jackie Warner were reelected.
“This is the same group of people that said they wanted nothing to do with the town,’’ McCray said.
She also noted some members of the commission who have stepped down are in possession of property that was donated to the town for use in the proposed town museum. “I have not heard any follow-through about them returning any of those items,’’ McCray said.
McCray said if she had been a member of the commission, she would not have stepped down simply because of one point of disagreement with elected town officials.
“There is a whole lot of historical preservation we can do,’’ McCray said.
McCray added she does not understand the full reasons why committee members stepped down or didn’t re-apply, but she does read a lot into the conduct of the former members of the commission and the way they have treated her and other members of the current Board of Commissioners since the election last November.
“I’m going off their behavior, the things they have done since I was elected,’’ McCray said. “As far as being cyber bullied or harassed for a decision I made, it does not make me listen to you anymore.’’
McCray noted she was initially receptive to overtures made by former commission members to the board when a representative of Preservation North Carolina was invited to Hope Mills to tour the Parish House and speak to the board about possible options for saving it.
“We do preserve history,’’ McCray said. “We are saving the (Christ Episcopal) church. We have a town museum. We are investing in our history.’’
McCray thinks many people in Hope Mills are misinformed about what those who support saving it repeatedly refer to as the historic Parish House, citing that it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
In fact, the building itself is not on the list of historic buildings that are located in the downtown historic district. McCray has researched the subject and found the building’s real history to be suspect.
“I challenge the historical value of the building,’’ McCray said. “It was rebuilt in 1985. It has burned multiple times. Most people don’t know there’s termite damage. There’s mold. All these things have to be repaired.’’
McCray noted that the church, which will be saved and is next door to the Parish House, and the proposed Heritage Park on the adjacent property are in desperate need of parking. The land where the Parish House is presently located provides that space once it is demolished.
“You’re going to have this beautiful church and Heritage Park and you’re not going to have proper parking,’’ she said, if the Parish House was allowed to remain.
As for those who argue to save the building, McCray said she has not heard any concrete plans from them on what they want to do with the building if it was restored or how they plan to raise the money that would be needed to restore it. Base figures suggest it could cost at least six figures to make the building stable. Hope Mills commissioner Bryan Marley, a veteran firefighter, said if a thorough inspection of the building was ever done, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest the figure to fully restore the building could reach $500,000.
McCray said this is the third Board of Commissioners that’s wrestled with the Parish House dilemma. She feels it’s time to move forward. “There are a lot of other projects we can work on,’’ she said. “I think if the community rallies around to make those projects successful, that’s the best way to move forward.’’
Commissioner Edwards said the heart of the debate over the Parish House has nothing to do with history. She thinks it all stems from personal animosity many of the members who stepped down from the preservation commission have toward Mayor Warner.
“If our mayor was not Jackie Warner and did the very same things she’s doing now, they wouldn’t be going through all of this,’’ Edwards said.
“She wants what’s best for the town and they can’t see that,’’ Edwards said, noting that the previous board which frequently voted 4-1 against anything Warner supported had two years and a consistent voting majority on the board to deal with the Parish House and did nothing.
“Now they are coming back at us because we want to demolish it, and we had planned to do that back in 2016,’’ Edwards said.
Edwards said the current board has made its plans for a positive future for Hope Mills clear, and hopes the citizens will be supportive. “There are so many possibilities, if we could get turned loose and start on it,’’ she said.