After five years of working in and most recently, managing, a local chain salon, Cortez resident and hairstylist Matthew Black is venturing out on his own.
Black was most recently a stylist and manager at the Great Clips on Main Street, a job he left last month to open Matthew’s Walk-ins Haircuts.
Over the past month, he’s been working on renovating his new space, which is housed in the former Department of Motor Vehicles office at the corner of First Street and Maple.
He remembers pulling up the carpet and seeing scuff marks from the front door to leading up to the middle of the room where he now has his check-in counter, relics most-likely left behind from decades of cranky DMV patrons shuffling in.
“I’ve been joking that I need to get someone in here to do a cleansing,” he said.
His hopes are that his high-end hairstyle offerings with chain store price points will be enough to put new patrons in a better mood.
“Our prices compete with Wal-Mart and Great Clips, but I would say that the quality competes with Viva and Envy,” said Black. Black completed his cosmetology degree program at 6th Street Salon in Durango, and studied under its owners Barb and Fred Acosta, who themselves studied with salon magnate Vidal Sasoon.
“I worked at the chain salons and cranked out haircut after haircut; you didn’t really have the time to do the specialized stuff...I have the business model down but now I have the freedom to do more of that stuff.”
During his time at Great Clips, Black says he became known for his “fades” and other specialized mens’ cuts.
“I used to get a lot of business from the Rez and from all over the community from people coming in for fades,” he said.
Black also does specialized cuts and color for women as well as kids haircuts.
The former Army medic and Fort Lewis College grad lives in Cortez with his wife and now 11-year-old son, after moving from Durango in 2005. He got into cosmetology late in life, making the switch when he was 40 after a near-spiritual epiphany, and says he loves it with a “ridiculous passion.”
He’s lately been inspired by other Cortez-based small-business owners taking financial and professional leaps of faith to carve out a place for themselves in an economically challenging area.
“It’s scary coming from the comfort of my regular income and starting something in an area like Cortez, but this is a town that if you’re not making your own way, a lot of time you’re scraping by working small jobs,” he said. “Cortez has so much potential for growth because of the regional access. You almost have to draw a 100-mile circle around the city when looking at the market because there are so many people coming through from the Rez or from Utah, Arizona. There’s so much potential here, and I’m just trying to eek out my little bit of it.”