PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Jorell Glass moved to Peoria from Jackson, Mississippi with a vision to change the way people look at barbershops. Where he lived prior, violence transpired inside of those businesses often.
He opened Prestige Barbershop in Peoria at two locations, one in Twin Towers Mall and Northwoods Mall. While he prepared to open his shop Glass met a man named Avery Hightower. Glass struggled to bring in some tools for the shop and Avery, never meeting Glass before, volunteered to help him.
“Mr. Avery just jumped right in he’s like you need some help and I’m like yeah so he jumped right in,” Glass said.
It was then that Glass learned Hightower was homeless. He offered Avery frequent opportunities to help him at the shop to earn money.
“I give him opportunities to grow as a man as a human being,” Glass said.
Glass was not the only person he worked for periodically. He also helped Rob Hanauer and Hanauer Law Office, and even took out the trash for Kickback on Fulton, a downtown Peoria bar.
“I always stop in [there] every day to check with them and see if there’s anything I can do,” Avery said.
Eventually, Avery became well-known in that area. He even built a relationship with Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis.
He’s got a great personality and just his demeanor and the way he holds himself I think people are very willing to give him a hand any time he needs it.Mayor Jim Ardis, Peoria
Ardis said one day he saw Avery around city hall and said hello. They talked for a few minutes and got to know each other a little better over the years.
This is something Hightower said people do not do often.
“They think that the average homeless guy out here is either on drugs or alcohol which a lot of times is the case, but then there’s a select few that are not,” Avery said.
Hightower said it is better to ask before you judge.
“How often have we walked past somebody on the street just assuming that they’re going to ask us for money, without actually listening to what they’re saying,” Hanauer said.
Take five minutes out of your life and just say let me hear your story.Avery Hightower, Peoria
Hightower admits he has made some bad decisions in life and he does not make excuses for his situation, but he is adamant about getting a second chance at life.
“As a homeless person despite of how you’ve gotten into your homelessness, you have to keep working at getting out of it if you want to get out of it,” Avery said.
Glass said Avery’s initiative and good heart opened a door for him. Glass made a decision to enter the food industry, planning to open a shop that specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs. This plan came to fruition on March 11.
“It’s one thing to give, but when you walk somebody through the process of starting a business that’s on a wholenother level,” Glass said.
After months of paying Avery to do work around his shop, Glass decided to give him an actual position, but this position is not at Prestige Barbershop. Avery now works at Glass’ new hot dog restaurant and the shop is actually called Avery’s.
Glass said he named the shop Avery’s because he wanted to put a face on the issue of homelessness. This was not a hand-out. Glass made sure that Avery worked for this opportunity, setting the foundation, but encouraging Avery to get the tools he needed to be a successful employee.
…You’re gonna have to go get your food handler’s license so I put the ball in his court to go do that.Jorell Glass, Prestige Barbershop
Avery did not disappoint. He is now serving hot dogs with a smile. Several customers who know Avery came out to support the shops grand-opening.
Avery’s is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.