‘Barber to the stars’ offers a warm welcome

Melvin Meeks

The “Barber of the Stars” brings a new look to his customers while giving a new definition to what it means to be a local business owner.

Londale Blackford was given the nickname “Barber of the Stars” because he cuts the hair of athletes who are thought of as local stars, including several prominent University of Kentucky student athletes.

Blackford, also known as Dale the Barber, is a Lexington native who moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was two with his mother but returned home after graduation from high school.

“The one thing that I love about Kentucky is that it gave me a new environment that allowed to slow me down, get myself together mental and spiritually, and allowed me to be myself,” Blackford said.

While growing up, he saw both his grandfather and father pursue careers in barbering so knew the decision to go into the business could work for him. He used all his lifesavings to open up his own shop two years ago in Lexington, and to his surprise his first real costumer was Keldon Johnson, a UK basketball standout who would help spread the word of his hair-cutting talents.

Now, when customers walk into his shop City Cuts on Waller Avenue, they are greeted by a wall filled with memorabilia like with signed posters of current and former UK athletes from the men’s basketball team such as Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Davion Mintz. Former UK quarterback Terry Wilson also has a spot on the wall, as does former UK track and field standout Daniel Roberts.

Damon Franklin, the manager and barber of City Cuts, greets customers at the door ready to hold a conversation with anyone. He said the unpredictability of his day is the most interesting thing about his job – he never knows who is going to walk through the door, whether it be the mayor or a five-star athlete.

Franklin’s sociable character embodies the environment Blackford looks to have each day at work – one bigger than barbering.

“Barbering is big, but I want my legacy to be bigger than just a barber,” Blackford said.

Blackford’s reputation as a barber has only continued to grow. His memorabilia includes signed basketballs from former UK basketball players Rex Chapman and Tyrese Maxey and signed jerseys from former UK basketball players Keldon Johnson and Ramon Harris.

According to Blackford, the “vibes” are what make City Cuts so attractive to these athletes. And even though the shop has become infamous for its clientele, Blackford said his definition of a star is different. He isn’t looking at the athletes, rappers, singers or celebrities.

“The stars are your regular or ordinary people, your average Joe, because they are the people who live here, they grow up here, have kids here,” he said. “The stars aren’t just the people who we see on TV they can be anyone who supports us who work an everyday job.”

This mindset allows for his clients to feel comfortable with him and like they can be themselves. Athletes or celebrities are constantly under the spotlight, rarely letting themselves relax and talk about what is on their mind.

“We are all adults, there has to be a certain level of respect, it’s all about communication,” Franklin said.

Blackford treats everyone the same in his shop, no matter what their race or gender is because he wants everyone to feel comfortable.

“The barbershop should not feel like a press conference. It should be a place where you can relax and if there is something bothering you, we have something here called take it to the room,” Blackford said.

Part of his philosophy is also to be active in the community. Since 2019, Blackford has teamed up with Operation Making a Change (OMAC) to provide free haircuts to middle school students that might not be able to afford it.

Blackford usually volunteers on Mondays, putting in a five or six-hour shift cutting the hair of middle schoolers while also trying to serve as a mentor and role model.

Blackford’s shop is normally open 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but whether he cuts the hair of a famous athlete in his store or a young child in a school, Blackford’s mission is to treat each and every customer like a star.