Tarentum barber makes impact on customers, community
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William Tavarez is more than just a neighborhood barber.
He’s someone a kid can look up to.
When youngsters go to Willy T’s Cuts in Tarentum, Tavarez doesn’t just cut their hair and send them on their way. He’ll talk with them about sports and grades and the importance of getting an education. He’s not afraid to give a little tough love when he hears someone has been getting in trouble.
“I think I have a pretty good relationship with most of the kids in the community,” said Tavarez, who turns 29 Saturday. “I try to steer them in the right way.”
Tavarez and his wife, Nicole Tavarez, had an atypical childhood.
She became pregnant with their first child, Jade, when they were both 15 and sophomores at Valley High School in New Kensington.
“We were just being kids, doing whatever, not thinking, and Jade came around,” Tavarez said.
Around that time, Tavarez was cutting hair as a hobby, not as a career. He and his friends would buzz each other’s hair short before they went out.
More than a decade later, he now is a successful barber with his own salon. His cuts are so in demand that reservations are often booked a week in advance.
Getting there wasn’t an easy road.
As a teenage parent, Tavarez was forced to grow up quickly.
While other kids his age were worried about things like going out and partying, Tavarez was focused on making money and taking care of his family. He even went to a job interview on his 16th birthday.
“He never faltered on anything,” Nicole Tavarez said. “He’s just always been the type of person to want to do better and to want to help people at the same time.”
Tavarez said Jade inspired him to be the man he is today.
He worked a series of jobs through high school to support his family.
“She’s motivated me a lot, my daughter, my oldest, to not be part of the statistic like everyone says,” he said.
After graduating from high school in 2008, Tavarez enrolled in Westmoreland County Community College. Within a month, he realized the academic route wasn’t for him and dropped out.
“I wasn’t too good in high school. I didn’t like sitting there and just learning. I wanted to be more hands-on,” he said.
Having trouble finding a steady job, salvation came in the form of a commercial for Empire Beauty School. The catchy jingle grabbed Tavarez’s ear and put him on the path to getting his cosmetology license.
Ever supportive, Tavarez’s wife and mother-in-law built Tavarez an in-house barber shop so he could cut hair in their New Kensington home while he was still in beauty school.
“That was big motivation for sure,” Tavarez said.
Tavarez graduated from Empire in 2010. He married his wife in 2011, opened Willy T’s Cuts in New Kensington in 2012, and relocated the salon to Tarentum in 2015.
He works six days a week, doing an average of 80 to 100 haircuts each week.
He loves it so much it doesn’t feel like work.
“I just like cutting hair. It makes people feel good,” he said. “That’s the best part, showing kids their cuts after and they’re all smiling in the mirror.”
Tavarez makes a point to give back to the community.
In conjunction with other salons, Willy T’s has provided free haircuts at the Allegheny Valley Worship & Service Center’s Back to School Bash for at least two years. Last summer, the salon raised more than $1,300 for the Brackenridge-based center on its own, donating all the proceeds from a Sunday of cuts at the shop.
“It doesn’t matter who you are,” Tavarez said of his salon. “Everyone comes here.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .