David Esparza, a local business owner, was only 17 when he began cutting hair in prison. Now, after turning away from a life of crime, Esparza spends his days cutting hair at Faded Up, his own business in Forest Grove.
As a young adult, Esparza was often locked up because of his association with gang members and drug-related activity. But as a teenager in prison, Esparza was given an opportunity to make a change in his life.
“A buddy of mine came up to me and was like, ‘I see what you’re doing and see where you could go and I have seen other people go down that same path, so if you want to be cool, but without having to do what the cool kids do in prison, then let me teach you how to cut hair,’” Esparza said. “He gave me a pair of clippers and I started cutting hair. After that, I fell in love with the process.”
Cutting hair while in prison provided an escape and purpose for Esparza.
“I was in my own zone, cutting hair and doing my own thing,” Esparza said. “It’s kind of the same thing out here now. As long as I’m cutting hair, I’m good.”
For Esparza, one of the best parts about cutting hair is being able to see the expression on his client’s face after a hair cut.
“The best part is when the client gets up, or when you hand them the mirror,” Esparza said. “They see the haircut and smile. They’re just like, ‘yup.’ That moment right there is the moment.”
Esparza worked to continue his barbering career outside of prison and eventually became a stylist and worker at the Chop Shop Hair Studio in Hillsboro. Esparza soon mastered the craft and began to build up a clientele, while also working to achieve his dream of opening his own barbershop.
One day, while walking in downtown Forest Grove, Esparza noticed a vacant business location sandwiched between the Forest Theatre and Flying Pig Music on Pacific Avenue. He decided to take his shot. After having his application for the shop approved and after acquiring the correct business licenses, Esparza opened the doors of Faded Up to the community on Dec. 1, 2016.
Now, Esparza spends his days cutting hair, renovating the shop and improving his brand. He is already selling shirts and hats in store.
“Its the best thing in the world,” Esparza said. “Actually having a relationship with my community and being able to be something other than a nuisance is pretty awesome.”
Esparza hopes to continue building his business by bringing in more barbers and stylists and creating connections with Pacific University and the Forest Grove community.
“I am hoping to be here ten years from now, fifteen years from now, in this same location, that would be great,” Esparza said. “We all like good haircuts and we all love to be pampered. I want to be able to provide a place to both look and feel good in Forest Grove.”