Roscoe Garnes has been cutting hair in the District for 30 years, serving clients like former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – and now, students.
Garnes owned Wall’s Barber Shop on 17th and G streets for 15 years before starting Exsequi – a one-man grooming business inside a luxury van – just five months ago. He rolls up to H Street by the Marvin Center about five days each week to provide services including straight razor shaves, blowouts and cuts.
“Every time you go to a barber shop, you don’t have too much of an option of what it is that you want, and you know you’re paying your money,” Garnes said. “The personalization of a mobile service, that’s what I’m reaching toward.”
Beyond the black Mercedes Benz van’s tinted windows, patrons can find a single barber’s chair surrounded by a hardwood interior with string lights, heat systems and a flat-screen television. But the one van is just a prototype unit, and Garnes said he is hoping to release a second van within the next year or two.
When Garnes is not giving cuts on campus, the company’s website allows clients to book appointments at any given location in the District and the van will travel to them. Appointments can be booked and paid for online, but Garnes also has a Square account and accepts payments through Cash App or Venmo.
Garnes said his network of clients takes him to various D.C. neighborhoods and he likes the personal, conversational nature of the job.
“Barbering is better than social media because of the confidentiality that people feel they can trust in their barber,” he said.
The D.C. native has been barbering since 1988. After his first business, located just across the street from the White House, he began to call himself the “unofficial White House barber,” as he was known for serving famous government figures and experts.
Cuts run for $65, which isn’t exactly cost-friendly for a student’s budget, but Garnes said he offers discounts for students, veterans and police and fire department personnel to give back to the community he grew up in. Instead of charging $85 for a cleanup shave with a straight razor, he may throw it in complimentary with a haircut as a college special – although tipping is still highly appreciated, he said.
“When I’m dealing with students, it doesn’t matter how upscale the van is, or what I bring my price down to, I still want to give you your service that you’re paying for,” Garnes said. “I don’t want to take anything away from you if I’m supposed to serve you.”
Javier Sanchez, who manages the marketing for Exsequi, said he could not find a barber within miles of his D.C. neighborhood before he stumbled upon a local flier for Garnes’ services. Now as Garnes’ business partner, Sanchez said the duo is working on developing an app that makes grooming even more convenient for the “time-strapped” consumer.
As a New York City consulting firm owner with a background in men’s style, Sanchez said the mobile grooming service seemed like the “perfect fit” for him because the venture creates a personalized experience for a busy urban male.
“Right now, we’re all stressed out, always being busy, always meeting deadlines, never having the time to take care of yourself, so this is really unique and personable,” Sanchez said.
Looking forward, Garnes said he aims to expand to five vehicles as his business grows throughout D.C. He’s also eyeing New York City as a new market and wants to expand to offer women’s haircuts and blowouts.
“As long as you serve people with dignity and respect, then they’re not going to leave you, they’re going to stay with you,” Garnes said.