A new barbershop in Berks County is focused on serving veterans, military members and first responders in a setting designed to make them feel at home.
Front Lines Barbershop opened in the shopping center formerly anchored by Kmart in Cumru Township in February, and is owned by partners Michelle Gonzalez and Ken Lebron.
Gonzalez had the idea for a business that would pay tribute to those who've served, and Lebron, the Berks County veterans affairs director, supported it independently of his work for the county.
The barbershop's goal is to provide everyone who enters with a sense of camaraderie, said Anthony Gonzalez, operations manager and Michelle's husband.
Customers are thanked for their service, and the shop's decor recognizes all five branches of the military as well as police and firefighters. There is also a POW/MIA display.
"If you've been on the front lines, when you walk in you'll feel like you belong," said barber Don Magee, an Army Reservist and drill sergeant.
Just as the branches of the military and first-response agencies should have high standards for their daily operations, Front Lines has the same approach, said Anthony, a retired Reading police officer and Army veteran.
"It was founded on the principles of honor, respect and gratitude to all who serve and have served their country and their community selflessly," he said.
Those who show ID to prove they are veterans or first responders will receive a 15% discount on services.
The staff is a mix of current and former military members, retired law enforcement and civilian barbers who were trained to be highly disciplined and pay attention to detail, said spokesman Frank Zapata, a Persian Gulf veteran who is retired from the Army.
The business is a throwback in a sense, he said.
"We want to bring the tradition of that barbershop feel where you sit back relax and enjoy the experience," he said.
Service creates a lasting bond, and customers will feel that kinship in the shop, he said.
"The barbershop's motto is 'We've Got your Six!' which means we've got your back," he said.
The business is looking to branch out by opening additional Front Lines locations, which are already in the planning stages, Anthony Gonzalez said.
Front Lines offers both men's and women's haircuts, and while it is dedicated to veterans and first responders, all are welcome, he said.
The shop is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Walk-ins are accepted, and appointments can be made by calling 610-741-6029.