Mohammed Aliyu has been interested in cutting hair since he was young.
At the age of 13, before receiving training, Aliyu decided to cut a patron’s hair at his brother’s shop in Nigeria. It did not turn out well, but the experience sparked his interest to hone the craft. To further this passion, 19-year-old Aliyu moved to the United States in 2010 where he began working at a barbershop on Lake Street in South Minneapolis.
Then, two years ago, he became its owner. And now he is opening up a second location — in Dinkytown. The shop, K Signature Barbershop, will open this weekend in the first-floor retail space of the Dinkydome Lofts on 15th Avenue Southeast.
“I’m very excited to open,” said Aliyu, who often goes by Kuta. “This is my first baby I started from scratch and brought into reality.”
Aliyu, known by some as the ”hair civil servant,” emphasizes giving his customers a positive experience. Years of cutting hair and attending barber school got him to where he is today. In addition to being the shop’s owner, Aliyu travels around the U.S. to provide his services and has been a personal barber to several high-profile clients, including former Minnesota Timberwolves players.
“That's the thing I always go for every time. I just like to make people feel good,” Aliyu said. “I get to also talk to people … what happens in a barbershop stays in a barbershop.”
The new location will have 11 chairs, two of which will be in a special VIP lounge.
K Signature barber Bai Kiawoin, who will be working at the new location, said the environment will be different from the Lake Street location — but exciting.
“It’s going to be a lot of room for growth,” he said.
Dinkytown has seen several barbershops in recent years, including Milo’s on Fourth and Hair Shaft, both of which had to vacate from a nearby building in 2018. Detronza Kirksey, owner of Milo’s, said at the time that he planned to relocate in the area, but has not yet returned.
Aliyu said he wanted to open at this location because, after years of serving the Lake Street community, he wants to offer his work to more people, especially students.
“It's time for me to get out the box, you know, and so other people can really enjoy what we offer,” Aliyu said. “This one, I feel like I'm giving it to the whole city.”
Mathews Elias, a longtime client of K Signature’s location on Lake Street, said people leave the shop feeling good about their cut.
“It's really hard to find a barber that really takes the time,” he said. “It's important for me that when I get a cut, I look fresh and look confident … you can tell he really cares about that.”
The location was supposed to open in March, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the timeline. When the shop opens, capacity must be limited to about five customers at a time, Aliyu said.
Keeping up with rent payments has been a struggle, but Aliyu hopes to receive some help with small business loans.
“I'm not the kind of person to let the situation at hand effect the dream I’m pursuing,” Aliyu said. “I'm gonna come through it, overcome it.”
Apart from opening the Dinkytown shop, Aliyu has other dreams for the future too, like opening up a shop in Las Vegas.
“I used to love the sound of clippers when I was younger,” Aliyu said. “But grown up now and where I’m at today, I think the reason why I do this is because of how I make people feel.”