Kansas City barber does far more than just cut hair

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ As he drives toward his shop, Joey Thomas thinks. About how many haircuts it takes to pay the bills. About how many haircuts it takes to turn around a neighborhood.

Early on this Saturday morning, before Indiana Avenue stirs to life, half a dozen customers are waiting for JoeyCuts to open.

"Good morning," Joey says, slipping quickly behind his chair, glancing at the mirror.

Looking back is a long-dreadlocked man whose skill with a razor and clippers is matched only by his ability to remain unbroken, despite what the inner city can throw at a person in 27 years.

Also caught in that moment's reflection: a young man struggling with the mission of this place.

JoeyCuts Salon is a barbershop recently named America's best by the Hoodie Awards, a prestigious honor sponsored by comedian Steve Harvey that recognizes the very best and brightest in the African-American community.

Thomas traveled to Las Vegas last month for the ceremony, where he rubbed elbows at the Mandalay Bay hotel with celebrities and other winners.

Across Kansas City, his shop is best recognized for its free, annual, back-to-school haircuts for boys. Not as well known is his Know Joey? Foundation that works on the inside of those young heads.

"The problem with our community is young black males," explains Rodney Knott, a community leader who gets his hair cut at the shop. "Now what do you do about it? Unfortunately, in our community the definition of manhood is perverted. Joey is a very important example of what that definition of manhood should be."

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