Young barber and business owner leaves his mark on Provo

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Reise Malachowski takes a seat in a retro barber chair in his shop, The Man Barber, on Oct. 5. (Thomas Madrigal)

Reise Malachowski did something out of the ordinary when he decided to open up his own barbershop and became his own boss — all before turning 20.

He described his interest in hair as a form of art and expression and recalled experimenting with Mohawks, pompadours and anything in between on either himself or his friends and family from a young age.

“The first time I can really remember cutting hair would be 5 years old, doing Mohawks and stuff,” he said.

His interest in the rockabilly era sparked his fascination with the hairstyles of that particular time period.

After multiple barbers failed to deliver a signature pompadour haircut, he decided to practice on himself instead.

“I started trying to cut my own hair and really started playing with pomade, and I realized how much sculpting you could do with hair,” Reise said. “It really became a big part of my identity.”

Upon completing a barbering program, he realized that if this was something he wanted to do long term, he would need to find a way to provide for a future family. “I felt a sense of responsibility,” he said.

After doing a summer of sales, where he and his then girlfriend sold alarm and satellite systems, the two were able to get their own home and rent a space where he could work part-time as a barber.

He said his first shop did not do as well as he thought it would, and with a less than ideal location, it was difficult to build a good clientele.

Reise Malachowski works on a client’s haircut using a straight razor. (Thomas Madrigal)

After conversing with the manager of Unhinged, a vintage clothing store on Provo Center Street, Reise agreed to cut the manager’s hair and trim his beard at a discounted price.

The manager enjoyed Reise’s work and suggested he move his business to the second floor of Unhinged. Reise accepted the invitation, was approved by the building owner and moved into what is now known as ‘The Man Barber.’

“I took a big pay cut at first, but I knew that if anyone was going to take me seriously and I was going to get my clientele, I needed to do it full-time,” he said.

Reise gained more than a bigger profit from the relocation. He also formed new friendships with clients and coworkers who share his same appreciation for barbering.

“Those friendships with the barbers and with the clients that we get coming back really become our good friends that we see through the lows and highs of life has really taught me a lot,” he said.

Despite the financial difficulties that come from being a young business owner, he expressed how grateful he is for the opportunity to live out his dream of creating art every day.

I never dreamed I would be here this fast,” he said.

He said his high school sweetheart and now wife, McKenzie Malachowski, was essential to his success and helped motivate him to want to be better.

“His work ethic changed entirely when he started barber school,” she said.

While they were not entirely sure how they would survive financially once on their own, McKenzie knew she wanted to make it work for both of them.

McKenzie and Reise Malachowski stand on Center Street in front of The Man Barber. (Thomas Madrigal)

While Reise barbered part-time in the evening, the two worked at a call center.

Despite the steady income the call center provided, the two knew they wanted to do something different in the years to come.

“Sales wasn’t something we loved or wanted to do long term,” she said. “We were honestly miserable at the phone sales place.”

McKenzie designed the layout of the shop, helped with logistics and scheduled appointments for all the barbers in the shop’s first stages.

Although it took a great leap of faith for them to jump on the opportunity, she said it’s rewarding to help her husband’s dreams become a reality.

Barber Isaac Barahona knew Reise while they were in their high school’s show choir together. Though the two were a few years apart in age, they became friends during their teenage years.

Barahona was exposed to the barber culture in his adolescence and gained the skills needed to barber with his own unique style. His friendship with Reise has evolved as the two have worked together to hone The Man Barber aesthetic.

“(Working together) makes it easy to hang out and figure out what we need to get done,” Barahona said.

Barahona said his friendship with Reise and the overall atmosphere of the shop makes work more enjoyable.

“It’s our home away from home,” he said.

Throughout the years working side by side with Reise, Barahona has seen firsthand the strides Reise has made both as an individual and a business owner.

“Over the years, I have seen his work ethic evolve, and he’s sharpened his view on what his barbershop should be,” he said.

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