At age 12, Danny Charlemagne began cutting his hair and discovered he could do a pretty good job of it. He had found his life's work and eventually became a professional barber. Last month, Charlemagne opened his own business, a men's barbershop in the true sense of the word.
Ideal Kutz offers traditional and trendy haircuts, razor shaves, beard and goatee trims and eyebrow trims. Prices range from $10 to $17.
The 39-year-old native of the U.S. Virgin Islands worked for more than a decade in Tampa Bay area shops before deciding in May it was time to invest in a place of his own.
He didn't have to worry about attracting clients. Many customers from his former work places followed him to 1555 East Bay Drive.
Reginald Vance of Gulfport has been a loyal customer for five years.
"I wouldn't get my hair cut by anyone else," said Vance, 39, a businessman with Ceridian Business Services Corp.
"Danny is consistent in his work ethic," Vance said. "He's always been the same as far as the way he cuts my hair and the feeling you have in his chair that you are the only customer he has. He stays at his station and gives you personal service. That's why I've been a loyal customer."
Charlemagne opens early, at 8 a.m. weekdays and 5 a.m. Saturdays, and stays open until 7 p.m. or later for the convenience of his busy customers. He currently has three employees.
The Rev. James Feazell, assistant pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Largo, has been a customer for three years.
"The thing I like about Danny is his professionalism, as well as the convenience of his hours and his new location," said Feazell, 43, and a Largo native. The new shop, he said, is "a great environment, very neat and clean."
"I'm usually there every Friday or Saturday," Feazell said. "When I've had to go out of town, I'll just call and say I'm going to be gone, can you fit me in. The wait is never longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
"If I come back in town on a Monday, they find a way to cut my hair on a Monday when they're normally closed. They work their schedule around you, which is important for the busy person."
Feazell said he has never had a complaint about Danny's haircuts.
Clyde Swain, a senior vice president of the national PODS moving and storage company, has been a customer for eight months.
"My time is limited for self-maintenance," Swain said. "I know what to expect with Danny. He and I don't even have to talk about my haircut or spend a lot of time dialoguing. He's that good."
Charlemagne said it took an investment of $40,000 to start and open the business. The 750-square-foot shop has six work stations, mirrors lining the walls, three televisions and large posters of hair styles.
The shop has a strict no-profanity code.
"We're kid-friendly and family oriented," said Charlemagne, who is married to his high school sweetheart, Dyan, and has two children. "It's a men's barbershop for all ages."
"Danny has a certain code that he lives by and he's basically built his business about that," said Swain, 44, of Clearwater. "No profanity at any time. I appreciate that."
Vance said Charlemagne "has a commitment to provide an atmosphere that everyone can be comfortable in. His clientele is diversified, he caters to everybody in the community."