Refuge For Men: Business Built from a Shoebox Gives Back to the Community

By Nicole Long

Refuge For Men Barber Shop, a local favorite, has a reputation of giving Richmonders hip haircuts– but it is more than just that. Dot Reid, owner of Refuge For Men Barber Shop, has found her own refuge in giving back to the community. The inspiration for Refuge For Men started with a shoebox, when Reid designed her ideal shop in cosmetology school. Since then, her business has grown, along with her passion to give back to the community.

“The vision is to utilize as many resources, to help as many people as possible,” she said. “Those that have the least, you give the most and the best.”

The Refuge For Men Foundation has been doing nonprofit work for eight years, however the foundation was officially incorporated as a nonprofit in 2015. The mission of the foundation is to connect economically disadvantaged community members with affordable housing and services, while offering community-based learning opportunities such as honing barber skills and social skills. The foundation has a three-part program that works toward providing these skills to members of its community.

In addition to the Refuge For Men Foundation, the store has helped provide resources or funds to other aspects of the community.

“Each November we sell gift cards and donate 100 percent of the profits to Massey Cancer Research,” Reid said. “In the last two years we’ve raised close to $15,000.”

She also helps to work with distributors of hair products to acquire quality shampoos, razorless hair removal and dry shampoos for the homeless.
She said that the store’s slogan is, “It’s not just a haircut,” meaning that it is a nonexclusive place where anybody can come, feel comfortable, and receive the services they want. Even though the name of the shop is directed towards men, women make up about 25 percent of the daily customers.

“A hairdresser is anperforming artist who must be creative and open minded to giving the customer what they want,” Reid said. “The worst thing to hear someone say is, ‘It’s okay, it will grow back.'”

In addition to hair care services, the store’s environment is a large part of what makes Refuge For Men so unique. Reid’s love of art is present all over the shop, from exterior to interior. After she owned her first shop and saw the inspiration and struggle that artists go through, she wanted to help provide a way to showcase their work.

Reid’s studio features a specific octopus painting that wraps around all four walls. She also has an affinity for fish tanks, which can be found on her shelves and have even been built into the wall. Another one of her room’s calling cards is her projector.

“Projectors are unique and the screen of the projector is larger than any of the tv’s found in the rest of the shop,” she said. “Since I’m the boss, I’ve got to one up everyone else. Hair always grows, This is my passion, this is what I see myself doing for the rest of my life.”

So next time you need a haircut, check out Refuge For Men and support a worthy cause in the process: