Open for Business: Local barber comes full circle, from mentee to mentor

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Rodderick Higgins has one goal every time a client leaves his barber chair. 

“Clean. Crisp. You know, they feel like they want to put on a suit when they leave the shop,” he said.

Higgins is the owner of Debonair Cuts Barbershop in East Peoria. It’s a calling he’s still finding interest in every single day.

He said, “After being in it for about 20 years, you know and I’m still—it’s like I just got started or something.”

Higgins’ story begins in his hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. He said a neighborhood barber paved the way for his passion now.

“I used to see Mr. Gray—Gray’s Barbershop. I used to see how he used to cut hair when I was younger and I wanted to emulate him. And he knew I was watching him and you know, just seeing me over in the corner and stuff,” said Higgins.

After years of barber school, Higgins started working for Mr. Gray. It served as an opportunity to learn, grow and hone his craft alongside his mentor.

“Eventually, I got good,” he said.

Higgins’ skills grew enough for him to open his own shop: a place to make people look good, offer chairside mentorship to his younger clients and a cultural space for community. 

“For history—Black Americans, Black African-Americans—you know, would come to the barbershop and it was like a gathering. You know, they would laugh and joke and have fun,” he said.

“The history and the heritage—the rich heritage of this, of this shop is just—you know, you can’t replace it.”

rodderick higgins

Debonair Cuts and Barbershop has survived its first few months in business. The decision to successfully open during the coronavirus pandemic was one that Higgins credits his faith and wife with.

“[Because] she was pushing. She said, ‘You need to get your business.’ I’m like, ‘No. I don’t know if I want to do that. I’ve got the name and everything. But I think I’m going to go work in the barbershop when things open up.’ But she said, ‘No. that’s not you.’”

Higgins said it was just the push he needed to continue on.

“That’s how it just kept going up from there,” he said.

Debonair Cuts Barbershop is located at 422 E. Washington St. Suite 300.

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