Rhyan Woods, 39, grew up in the Lefrak City apartment complex in Queens, where he says there were only about three barbershops and thousands of people who needed haircuts. His neighborhood produced NBA stars like Kenny Smith and hip-hop legends like N.O.R.E, but athletes and rap stars weren’t the only people from his neighborhood who were revered on a pedestal. “The barbers were just as cool as everyone else who was doing major things, and I definitely wanted to be a part of that,” he says, recalling his boyhood. He didn’t yet know in which capacity, but he knew that he wanted a piece of that lifestyle and prominence.
Being in the grooming business wasn’t Woods’ calling card early on. In 2001, he enrolled at Queens College as a computer science major with no intention of ever becoming a barber. “Barbering fell in my lap,” he says. “I wanted to save money in between [my own] cuts, so I bought myself a pair of clippers just to line myself up… but then it became something I could make money with.”
Woods would end up dropping out of college and enrolling in barber school a few years later. While finishing his barbering program, he began to cut hair at Filthy Rich, a popular barbershop in Woodside, Queens, where he’d ultimately become one of the most sought-after barbers. He worked there for about ten years before venturing off into entrepreneurship.
Woods knew it was time to start gearing toward opening his own business once he started paying closer attention to his taxes. Uncle Sam helped make Woods aware of just how much money he was bringing in. “I always wanted to open a barbershop since I started cutting hair,.” he says. “I always knew I had to build up my clientele and make sure I’m consistently finding ways to get better. I didn’t realize that time came until I started doing the backend paperwork. That’s when you start finding out the reality of what you’re doing.” And thus, the Concierge Grooming Parlor was born.
Asked about the name of the establishment, he replied that he didn’t ““wanna call it a barbershop.” He considered unconventional ways to name the business, and settled on “grooming” because he said it felt more sophisticated than “barber.” He took “parlor” from ice cream parlors as a different way of saying “shop.” And he thought of “concierge” as it relates to how high-end hotels describe their services. The name isn’t intuitive, and that’s exactly what Woods was going for; he wanted to pique other’s interest, leading them to wonder ‘what goes on in there?’
Compared to many barbershops, The Concierge Grooming Parlor is relatively small, but its energy is big. There’s a comforting vibe that fills The Concierge Grooming Parlor – an atmosphere that Woods cultivated very intentionally. The shop sits on a quiet, tree-lined block and fits just three barbers and their three clients. But more often than not, there are only two people there – Woods and whoever’s head he’s cutting.
The Concierge Grooming Parlor barely got off the ground before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down all non-essential businesses. As the unkempt afros and hairstyles that flooded Instagram timelines in 2020 indicated, barbershops were not considered essential. Like many people during this time, Woods was forced to pick up new interests and hobbies to stay distracted from the chaos surrounding his future. “Once you see the governor of your state say that you’re not an essential worker, you start to feel a type of way about yourself,” he says. “I went through it. I had a lot of questions. I would say in that period of career hibernation, I learned a lot of other things. But there was still a lot of uncertainty.”
Although many small businesses that shut down during the pandemic were never able to get back to functioning at their full capacity, that wasn’t the case for the Concierge Grooming Parlor. After conducting home visits for a few months, he was able to reopen in July 2020, and about a year later he started seeing his appointment schedule get back to normal. Woods was again serving the communities he’d grown to love.
The most successful barbers are those with the most loyal customers. Rich Fazo, 29, is a professional DJ and photographer and has been Woods’ client for the past seven years. “Rhyan has always done a good job; knock on wood,”he says. Even with prices leaning on the higher side, clients like Fazo find value in sticking with Woods. “A lot of people complain about the price, but I don’t care,” he says. ”If you want something good, you gotta pay for it… I understand the price, but I spend the same amount of money on dumb stuff; I might as well spend it on a good haircut.”
Woods justifies the prices for his services. “As my liability increases, as my skill increases, as the ambiance increases, and everything else… the price has to follow,” he says. “There’s no way it makes sense for me to still earn the minimum in my field after all these years of experience.” Still, what matters most for Woods is whether or not the customers consistently leave satisfied.
Another client, Gabriel Smith, a New York-based hip-hop artist from Grand Rapids, Michigan, says he “was welcomed in a timely fashion, cut in a welcoming environment, and left looking good.” Smith was more than satisfied, he said, and added that Woods is “a very personable guy and simply gives off the energy that he takes every cut seriously.”
Barbers, especially barbers in the Black community, are often very connected to the communities they serve. Woods recounts violence-filled stories from his adolescence that took place at barbershops around his neighborhood. These events shaped his thought process when it came time to open his own place. He thought about “how to enjoy the benefits of being attached to everyone that’s coming in, but not have to experience the negative repercussions of being so close to everyone.” He remembers thinking, “How do I still incorporate that culture of community without leaving myself too open to the public?”
The space Woods has created at The Concierge Grooming Parlor is the antithesis of the negative experiences he observed at the barbershops from his childhood. His barbershop isn’t a hangout spot for casuals. It’s not a place where men go to have drinks, talk junk, and get away from their wives. It’s an inclusive place where everyone is welcome with the expectation of safety, comfort, and excellent service. Good conversation and camaraderie are merely a byproduct.
For Woods “community is everything,” The Black community; community; the youth community. “We were taught and believe that it’s every man for themself, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” he says. “That’s the biggest lie ever.”
The Concierge Grooming Parlor (47-08 39th Place, Sunnyside) at is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Follow it on Instagram and book and appointment here.