Although the profession has been in Igor Ilyabayev’s heritage, being a barber wasn’t the career the owner of V’s Barbershop locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale always had in mind.
But at the age of 19, Ilyabayev, who hails from Uzbekistan’s capital of Tashkent, changed his mind and decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle and aunt.
“At first, I didn’t want to go into the family business. My father convinced me, so I had something to fall back on,” Ilyabayev said.
While in barber school, Ilyabayev discovered he enjoyed the craft, which suited his outgoing personality.
“You always had someone new to talk to. I’m a people person, so I thought, ‘This is good for me,’ ” he said.
After spending nearly a decade as a barber in the company’s original Arcadia location, Ilyabayev decided to purchase and open his own shop in north Phoenix in 2008. Success there led to the recent opening of his Scottsdale location, making him the first V’s franchisee to open multiple barbershops.
Ilyabayev enjoyed his longtime employer so much that he let family members run his Phoenix shop as he continued to work at the Arcadia location. There, over the years he had watched children grow from feisty kindergartners to mature teenagers and established what he called a “very deep connection” with clients and their families.
Although it was difficult to leave Arcadia, bigger aspirations fueled a larger pursuit.
“It was because, how do you say . . . the American Dream. I saw an opportunity and I took it,” he said. “I was growing as a barber, and now I’m a businessman.”
Opening a business just as the economy started to take a dive was not ideal. Although Ilyabayev was concerned, he knew men still needed to get a haircut and maintain a groomed appearance.
Several of his customers lost their jobs in the wake of the recession, but they wanted to look good on interviews and feel better about themselves, he said. Soon, Ilyabayev saw his client base growing, and he was able to spend his time focusing exclusively on his new venture.
“I was stressing at first, but after a couple of months I saw the potential and the business growing. (Then) I wasn’t so much afraid,” he said. “They may cut out going out for dinners, but they still come in for the haircut. They had that to look forward to.”
Over the last 10 years, Ilyabayev has noticed a surge in popularity of the men’s barbershop, particularly those like his that offer extras like old-fashioned shaves, facials and shoe shines.
For eight years, Dave Chiasson, has been a client of Ilyabayev’s and V’s. Chiasson lives five minutes from Ilyabayev’s Scottsdale shop but had previously made regular lengthy drives to Arcadia and north Phoenix. Chiasson has gotten every service available but usually gets the Works package – a shampoo and cut, straight razor shave and shoe shine.
Chiasson has been going to barbers his entire life and raved about Ilyabayev’s professionalism, service and engaging personality. Ilyabayev has come in to cut Chiasson’s hair even on his scheduled day off.
“He always goes the extra mile and always puts forth the extra effort. He’s the best I’ve ever had,” Chiasson said. “He’s genuinely a nice guy and incredible family man. He’s always in a good mood.”
Excellent service to each client is what Ilyabayev said makes the difference and turns first-time customers into regular patrons. Keeping his shops clean and providing a nice atmosphere adds to the allure.
Ilyabayev spends most of his time at his Scottsdale location, leaving the Phoenix shop with his family. His father, Sam, brother Imanuel and wife, Yelena, are employees.
“We are very close. Family is important to me,” Ilyabayev said. “This is truly a family-run business.”