I had to wait for my interview with Adrian Reyes, barber and owner of Kings and Queens Hair Studio on Maine Street. My wait was more comfortable than inconvenient—his lobby is warm, adorned by well-stuffed black leather couches and new issues of Allure. His business, known as the only barbershop in Brunswick with the skills to cut ethnic hair, is booming. Reyes embraces the busyness and his energy was tangible, translated into upbeat engagement with each person who walked through his doors. 

He fit in the interview while working with a new customer, who hadn’t gotten a haircut since arriving months ago to work at Bath Iron Works. He was referred to Kings and Queens by a friend.

“I used to be a chef at Bowdoin College, and the students were asking me who was cutting my hair,” Reyes explained. “At the time, I cut my own hair. I knew there was a niche, I knew there was something up here that was special because no barbers here could do what I do.”

“I was the first one cutting Bowdoin College’s hair, African-Americans, Hispanics—I’m Puerto Rican,” Reyes said. Hailing from Florida, Reyes found Maine to be “a culture shock” when he moved here with his family as a teenager. Upon moving, he, like many Bowdoin students, could not find a hairstylist.

“A lot of seniors are like, ‘Oh man, the freshmen are so lucky that they have you here now!’ They used to have to wait to go home [to get their hair cut]. The only time they actually looked good was actually right after breaks. Now, they can maintain their style.”

Yet, he refuses to be pigeonholed. “If you look on my page, at Facebook, I can do black, white, Puerto Rican, Chinese—any hair, I can cut it.” While I was in the shop, a white man in camouflaged uniform gave a big thumb’s up, saying “I would drive anywhere to get my hair cut by Adrian.”

Although there are few other hairstylists with the skills to cut ethnic hair, Reyes also stands out with his individual attention to clients. “As a barber, man, we get a lot of clients who really feel with us. We’re their shrink, we’re their best friend,” he said. Reyes is as close with his clients as he is his family, who were visiting him in the shop at the time.

His grandmother (who calls Reyes “sugarplum” and hugged me before leaving) was present throughout the interview, along with his mother. “[My mom] is my manager, she’s the one that takes care of all the boring stuff,” Reyes said, smiling. “I learned humility from my mother.”
His mother, who had been listening to our interview while she swept, interjected here: “He’s been humble since he was born,” she said. “He was a sweet, calm child.”

“I was a punk,” Reyes countered. He had a son at 18 and has since separated from his son’s biological mother. “She took a different path,” he said, “I’m a family man.”

Adrian immediately brightened upon mention of his son. “He loves reading. We read to him at nighttime, we have to. Do I want to, no, I’m tired, but I have to, to get him where he needs to be. As his parent, it’s my responsibility.”  Adrian lives in Yarmouth, now, because it is a better place to raise kids than the Portland suburb in which he grew up.

“My favorite part about being a dad is to guide my kids, give them things I didn’t have, guide them where I didn’t have guidance when I was younger. When I said I was a punk, I was a punk. I had to land in jail to get where I am, it was a complete 180,” Reyes declared.

He tries to relate this guidance to some of his younger customers. “They see the success, but they don’t see the struggle I went through.”

Reyes works long days, and coaches baseball Wednesday nights. Each day is packed with work and preparation for his new daughter, Julianna, who is due in two weeks. Potential surrounds Reyes, and he’s meeting it.

“My dream was to be ready by the time she was here, and I am,” he said.