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How Level Up is changing the game for men’s salons
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Level Up Haircuts co-owners Shannon Howard, right and Angelica Tabor are currently in the middle of a soft opening of the barber shop on Washington Avenue Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Level Up Haircuts will hold its grand opening on Friday.

Level Up Haircuts for Men believes women aren’t the only ones who deserve pampering.

“We want to offer guys an ultimate experience, something different from what they normally get,” said Dustin Tew, co-owner of Level Up. “Most guys go in and get a haircut, and that’s it. They don’t get much of a chance to relax and pamper themselves.”

Level Up opened in November 2018 at 3 Washington Ave. in Gainesville. Tew shares the business with Shannon Howard and Angelica Tabor.

Before starting Level Up, Tew served in the U.S. Army from 1995-2001. He later worked as an executive chef at three five-star restaurants.

But it took some old military injuries to change his fate and eventually lead him to barbering.  

He suffered two ruptured disks in his back and one in his neck from loading trucks in the Army.

Tew said he always envisioned working in a hair salon, but wanted to wait until retirement. However, his injuries made his chef job difficult, so he decided to pursue cosmetology school.

“It was something that I was always going to do,” Tew said. “I used to hang out at the barbershop down the street and sweep up hair for gumballs and sodas.”

Tew met Howard and Tabor while working at a franchise hair salon in Gainesville. After around three years of cutting hair together, the three decided to open their own business.

“We all went through a franchise training, but we all have uniquely different skill sets that create a uniform picture,” Tabor said. “Even if a client were to sit in my chair, and then go get a haircut from Dustin, he’s still going to get the same haircut.”

When entering Level Up Haircuts, customers receive more than a haircut. The hair stylists provide a head massage, hair washing, hot towel and a 15-minute relaxation time on one of the full-body massage chairs. While receiving the massage, men have the option of listening to relaxing music through one of the headsets connected to the chairs.

Tew said the salon offers a place where men can be themselves and unwind in a masculine environment.

“Men go to work all day and work really hard,” Tabor said. “There’s no place for them to go and retreat. What Level Up is trying to do is break that misconstrued notion that men don’t deserve to be pampered.”

Jay Parrish, chief of the Gainesville Police Department, and other first responders are regulars at the salon.

During the first week of every month, first responders only pay $10 for haircuts. Veterans receive $3 off haircuts every day.

“They’re (first responders and veterans) important,” Tew said. “They need to look good and feel good, and have a place where they’re going to feel comfortable. When they come in here, they know we’re going to make them look and feel their best.”

Depending on the level of treatment, Level Up’s haircuts cost anywhere from $18-$30.

The salon additionally finds ways to support Gainesville through community outreach. Tew, Howard and Tabor launched a school supply and backpack drive for Sisu Integrated Early Learning, raised money to help a local family whose house burned down and sponsor Gainesville High School’s baseball team.

When people leave Level Up, Tew said he hopes they realize that the salon’s staff cares.

“People that just want haircuts, that’s not what we’re looking for,” he said. “We’re looking for people that want to be a part of our family.”

Level Up will hold a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 10.

The salon’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Walk-ins and appointments are accepted.

For more information about the salon or to make an appointment, visit or call 678-971-4341.
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Level Up Haircuts co-owner Angelica Tabor works at the Washington Avenue barber shop Wednesday, May 8, 2019, during a soft opening. Level Up Haircuts will hold its grand opening on Friday.
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Level Up Haircuts co-owner Dustin Tew and the staff will offer men a spa style experience during their stay.
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Level Up Haircuts in Gainesville owners prepare Wednesday, May 8, 2019, for their grand opening this Friday. Owners Angelica Tabor, left, Shannon Howard, and Dustin Tew have worked together in the past at a franchise hair salon.
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