Stepping Up: Newport barber offers free haircuts for families in need

NEWPORT – Victor Curet has experienced hardships, but shaggy hair was never one of them.

The New York native spent much of his childhood in the beauty salons where his mother, Maria Curet, worked as a hairstylist. Inspired by his mom, he became a barber at age 15, working across three states – New York, Massachusetts, and for the last seven years, as owner of Gentleman’s Quarters Barbershop in Newport.

And just as he watched his mom do throughout her time as a stylist and salon owner, he’s made it a point to give back to his community by offering free back-to-school haircuts for children in need.

After seeing and experiencing the financial burdens posed by COVID-19, though, he felt compelled to do more. Since reopening the shop off Thames Street several weeks ago, Curet expanded his free haircuts to anyone in need, alongside his regular, paid appointments.

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“I know a lot of people are in the same position I’m in,” Curet said, describing the stacks of bills that piled up during the time his business was shut down, the rejection of his application for a Paycheck Protection Program, and his fear over an uncertain financial future. Even in the Newport area, known as a playground for the rich, poverty and hardship still exist, he said.

And while haircuts could be viewed as a luxury item forced to the backburner when times are tough, Curet did not want area families to sacrifice the self-esteem boost that comes with a new ‘do. 

Since publicizing his service, working with Newport Police Department to spread the word, Curet has seen steady demand from adults and children in need of a free cut. He plans to continue the offering as long as people need it, though he is limiting the by-appointment free cuts to three daily to accommodate for paying customers as well. 

Asked what his now-deceased mother, who also made it a point to give back to her community, would think of his decision, Curet said “she would be so happy, and so proud.”

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

Providence Business News is spotlighting nonprofits, companies and workers stepping up to challenges presented by the spread of the new coronavirus.

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