Street Week: Bruce Randolph

Outside this barbershop on Bruce Randolph are racist slights and movements toward justice for Black people. Inside, a warm place for people to talk.

Meet the people of Bruce Randolph Avenue.

Patrick Efferson and Trae Riggs inside Exclusive Cuts Barber Shop on Bruce Randolph Avenue. Sept. 11, 2020.

Patrick Efferson and Trae Riggs inside Exclusive Cuts Barber Shop on Bruce Randolph Avenue. Sept. 11, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
staff photos

Editor’s note: Kevin and Dave roamed Bruce Randolph Avenue and talked to most everyone they saw. Every day during Street Week, we’re rolling out mini profiles of the everyday heroes they found. Find more here.

Patrick Efferson deftly glides a trimmer across a customer’s beard, finishing a clean-looking shape-up — the kind that leaves you wondering if it’s possible for hair to hug a head any closer. The barber applies some aftershave. “That stings, boy!” jumps the older man in the chair.

We’re inside Exclusive Cuts Barbershop, the business Efferson owns and runs on Bruce Randolph Avenue. Despite the name, the barbershop is anything but unwelcoming. Soul music blasts through speakers just above conversation level, and conversation runs rampant here.

“People don’t have enough places to vent — with men and men of color having a place to vocalize and talk about the things that are bothering them and not be looked or frowned upon,” Efferson says. “Besides a barbershop, I can’t tell you any place in America where that’s the atmosphere, that’s the vibe.

“None of us are psychologists … but we might play a part in helping mental health problems.”

Exclusive Cuts is a warm place where customers from the neighborhood talk about who bought a Cadillac and what’s going on locally and nationally, whether it’s the changing neighborhood or the civil rights movement for Black justice.

“It’s a safe place for people of color to vocalize,” Efferson says. “They may not be politically active, but this is a place where they can talk about frustration or even cross-check and say, ‘How you doing with all this?'”

Trae Riggs, Efferson’s friend and fellow barber, proudly grew up around Bruce Randolph.

“My granny, she’s been here since forever,” he says. Riggs’ mom grew up nearby on Filmore Street. He loves the area.

“Even with all this COVID stuff going around, you know, it’s not going to stop people from being friendly to one another,” says Riggs. “When you walk outside, you know, you feel like you’re at home, you know what I’m saying? Nobody don’t be bothering nobody, everybody speaks … everybody friendly. And that’s what Bruce Randolph represents — friendliness.”

It’s cliché to frame Bruce Randolph the street in the image of Bruce Randolph the man — who was all about humanity and giving. But Randolph’s soul is palpable here at the barbershop and down the street at the bus stop where, a day earlier, men delivered hot meals to people sitting on an RTD bench.

“You know, what (Randolph) started, just giving back and assisting wit the means that he did have — feeding people, possibly housing people, and also just being that community anchor … a patriarch of this community, to identify or be connected to any of that is cool,” Efferson says. “I don’t have the means to feed people, but you know, I can assist by haircuts and providing the atmosphere.”

Efferson moved his shop to Bruce Randolph two years ago from nearby Colorado Boulevard where he leased for eight years before being pushed out by rising rent. He sees his new area changing, too. It’s impossible to ignore. His shop is on a block where new businesses mix with old. And though he and Riggs see gentrification, they’re not shunning new neighbors.

Still, a positive attitude doesn’t absolve negative realities. A while back, a new business with white owners opened nearby. Efferson, who is Black, received a delivery for his neighbor’s place by mistake. He walked up to the owner in the street to give her the package.

“But the look she gave me was this look of like, leave me alone. Don’t talk to me.”

He explained the situation to her. Moods changed.

“That wasn’t a cool feeling,” Efferson said. “And those feelings make you recognize the difference in the community.”

Want some more? Explore other Street Week: Bruce Randolph stories.

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