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Whitestone haircutter serves unique clientele

By Sarina Trangle

There is no avoiding the razor, but Radik “Ray” Khaimov has taken several steps to help children, particularly those with special needs, acclimate to haircuts at his Whitestone barbershop.

At Khaimov’s Utopia Barber Shop, the seats are modeled after a police squad car and airplane, work stations boast bright primary colors and an Xbox video game console serves as a waiting area.

“I’m a third-generation barber. My father was a barber. My grandfather was a barber …. And It’s not so easy that any barber can do it,” Khaimov said of working with youth who have special needs. “My wife, she is a special education teacher, and we talk every day about how to deal with special needs.”

Khaimov, of Fresh Meadows, said his shop’s grand opening, at 20-06 Utopia Pkwy., two weeks ago came out of him noticing how many of his former colleagues struggled to work with children who have special needs.

After 15 years in the industry, Khaimov said he trained four barbers, emphasizing the need to entertain children with songs while working quickly. He purchased dimmer lights that do not aggravate the eyes and technology to mute the buzzing sound on razors.

Bright posters of Mickey Mouse, trains and characters from children’s stories cover the walls. Cartoons are a mainstay on the shop’s televisions screens, and Khaimov said staff conclude trims with lollipops and balloons.

“They come all the way from Kew Gardens,” he said. “So far, a lot of kids have come.”

But Khaimov said the barbershop does not deal strictly with children and strives to evoke a family-friendly atmosphere. Indeed, on a recent Monday morning, two men sat in the row of leather seats before a wood-panelled wall of mirrors as barbers clipped off their locks.

Utopia Barber Shop is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Saturdays.

Children’s cuts are $12. Trims cost $14 for those 16 or older. Shaves go for $14.

“We can do a hot towel shave,” he said. “Some 16-year-olds, they’ve never been shaved before and their parents are nervous, but we can make it happen.”

For more information, call 718-229-5555 or visit utopiabarbershop.com.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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