Jeremy Ley has been working as a licensed barber at Leyzer Cutz in downtown Walla Walla for two years.
Originally from El Paso, Texas, Ley moved to the Walla Walla area for a fresh start after his father died in 2012.
“For me, it was a battle,” Ley said. “Moving was hard, and I've moved a lot in my life.”
Going from the metropolis of El Paso to the slower and quaint cities that dot the Walla Walla Valley, Ley said he was able to take a breath of fresh air and really see the path in front of him.
“I’m glad I moved here instead of somewhere else,” Ley said.
Ley said he didn’t decide to make a change to do what made him happy until one fateful night while he was doing audit for a hotel in Walla Walla.
“It was like 2 in the morning, and I just kept asking, 'What am I doing with my life?'” Ley said. “I kept thinking to myself, 'I’m 28. I’m only getting older, and time is flying.'”
The next day Ley called Walla Walla Community College to see if he could attend the barbering program. The college gave him 24 hours to apply and get his transcripts in, and by the next Monday he was in class ready to learn the art of cutting hair.
Ley said the 10-month program zipped past and he knew he had some big decisions to make: either work with other established barbers, or go solo.
“It was really difficult,” Ley said.
Now, with two years under his belt, Ley said he has a loyal clientele and business has been great.
“I take care of people's hair problems and help bring back that confidence in them," Ley said. "It’s a lovely feeling when someone comes in here and says, 'Hey man, I need something done with this, what can you do?'”
Ley said the moment that he gets to show a client their new cut is priceless.
“When you show them in the mirror, and they are smiling at themselves. ... It's the best feeling."
Ley wanted to go above and beyond what normal barber shops offer. Once a month, Leyzer Cutz offers free haircuts for recovery veterans of the Walla Walla VA.
"I tell them, 'Don't worry about the fee,' because for some, it's either get a haircut or get groceries," Ley said. "I want to help people look good, so they feel good about themselves when they apply for jobs and go to interviews."
He said he hopes this will open the door for people to pay it forward.
"I do free haircuts often," Ley said. "Some people just can't afford it. ... Some people pay with change. I've been in that situation growing up, hiding under tables while my mom was at work so she wouldn't get fired for bringing me because she couldn't afford a babysitter."
Ley said his personal goal is to continue to be the best version of himself by listening to his clients.
"I have people come in and they just talk and talk. Sometimes I can't even get a word in," Ley said. "A lot of the time I can really see a weight being taken off their shoulders, and it wasn't the haircut."
"It's not hard being nice," Ley said. "It doesn't cost anything to be nice, either."
Ley doesn't shy away from big ideas, and he said he has a grand vision for the future. He's set his sights on a goal to help as many people as possible through a free once-a-year community event he wants to host.
"I want to eventually rent out the pavilion at the fairgrounds and have vendors, barbers and cosmetologists offer assistance for whatever people need," Ley said. "We have so much help in our community that a lot of people don't know about or can't access."
Ley said the community has inspired him to pass on the love he experiences every day.
"Nowhere else is like this," Ley said. "For me, Texas and Walla Walla are like night and day. People here love and respect each other."
Ley said he wants to serve as more than someone who cuts hair.
"I really want people to know that our door is always open," he said. "I know some people feel like they have nowhere to go. You can come in for a haircut or you can come in just to talk. We're here to do both."
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