Brothers Zain and Umair Malik took a risk in the middle of the pandemic in 2021.
Despite the challenging economic situation, the two Richmond Hill natives decided to launch their own barbershop in Bradford. Two years of successful business later, they moved their barbershop to Newmarket in pursuit of more space.
“We feel it’s not just a haircut, it’s an actual experience you’re getting here,” Umair said. “We feel like a family.”
Their barbershop, Empire Fadez, opened up at 140 Mulock Dr. this month. The location offers a variety of haircuts and styles, with six barbers on staff.
The brothers started cutting hair in high school, doing it for their friends. Zain Malik, who works himself as a barber full-time, said he enjoys building connections with people through the job. He said his brother, who works as a teacher, believed in the idea with him.
“I love connecting with different people, working with my friends, my family. I love the industry. I love cutting hair. It’s satisfying. It takes my problems away,” he said.
Still, it was not an easy thing to start up their new shop during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s risky,” Umair said, but added, "we had the determination to pursue.”
While Zain is running the store full time, Umair is balancing business management with his job as a Grade 3 teacher at Maple Leaf Public School. It has its challenges, but he said the students find it fascinating.
“People get surprised, I’m a teacher, and I own a barbershop. The kids here, they say, ‘No way, that’s impossible.’ I give them the motivation to do more, multiple things when you go up,” he said. “
The school connection has prompted the new shop to offer free haircuts to Maple Leaf Public School. Umair said they will be doing that monthly and that many kids in the school have to get haircuts from their parents versus a barber.
“It’s a good way to give back to the community,” he said.
Maple Leaf Public School is located in a central place in the Newmarket Heights neighbourhood. York Region has brought in a community action table to help the area.
Umair said he has seen the troubles the area has faced and the difficulties some of his students have in their lives. But he said he wanted to take on the job there to help if he could.
“It can be difficult at times but then I love working with kids. That’s what motivates me,” he said. “I want to be a role model in their life.”
The brothers hope to expand in the long term, with their early success giving them dreams of going to surrounding cities with new locations.
“It’s an experience,” Umair said of their shop. “You’re paying for the conversation you have with your barber. That relationship that you’re building every time you step in the shop.”