Dominican Republic native Jeffrey Zapata knew he wanted to own a barbershop from the time he was young.
At 14, he started practicing. At 19, he opened his first shop in the Dominican Republic — one that his popularity quickly fueled to success.
But in 2006, he ran into his childhood friend named Kendy — she moved to the United States with family when she was 17 — while she was visiting on a short vacation. Their connection undeniable, they married within a year.
Kendy, at the time a legal permanent resident, worked toward and got her citizenship in 2008. She applied and successfully brought Zapata to her New London home three years later.
Determined, Zapata set to work. He got his barber’s license. He earned his citizenship. And, in April 2015, he opened the doors to Jeffrey’s Barbershop at 300 Elm St. in New London.
Wanting a safe and family-friendly spot, Zapata installed cameras at the shop. Wanting to give back to the community, he sponsored teams, spoke at schools and volunteered with a local church.
With the help of word-of-mouth, he doubled the New London shop’s capacity from five barbers to 10. Two weeks ago, to his joy, he opened a second branch at 99 Franklin St. in Norwich.
Both shops are open six days a week for nearly 12 hours each day — something Zapata conceded is “not easy.”
“He came over here with his eyes closed and nothing in his hands,” Kendy Zapata said. “Everything he has is because of hard work, dedication and doing everything the right way.”
“Sometimes people put (immigrants) in the same place,” she continued. “If you’re good and I’m bad, they put us together. And that’s not right.”
Read the full story from The Day: “Does data about immigrants’ economic impact paint whole picture?”