Bellport Village

Art of Barbering: Shop owner Jessi Flores combines business with art

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Though the pandemic has caused hardships for many businesses, some have taken the opportunity of time closed to maximize their shop’s potential. And that’s just what Jessi Flores, the owner of Steel and Velvet Barbershop in Bellport, did.

Passing by its location on South Country Road, anyone who stops to look can see large prints of art covering the walls of the shop. Upon entering, there are gigantic, colorful prints of surrealist paintings, numerous art books, and art supplies lined up so that the customers feel as though they are in the midst of an art gallery.

Flores opened up shop in 2010 during a recession, and at the beginning of another, he has revamped. His story with barbering began at a young age, alongside his passion for art. It wasn’t until the pandemic, however, when, spurred by the loss of business during lockdown and a need for innovation, he had an epiphany and decided to combine the two. With the help of his friend and contractor, Livingston “Li” Carpio, owner of Interiors 22, Flores brought his two passions together.

As a child, Flores was influenced by street art that he saw during visits to New York City. “My style is very New York,” he said. He has always made art, using any kind of materials he could. “Whatever I can find, anything; I’ve used coffee before, I’ve experimented with tea; I like to think outside of the norm.”

One of his recent projects was a collaboration with another artist, Duel Ris, putting up hearts in key areas of the city during the pandemic to show his love for New York. He describes art as a way for him to heal and create.

“This is a labor of love,” he said, “and I just want to spread that love.”

The creativity of the space has had an impact on his customers as well. According to a loyal customer and one of Flores’s good friends, Frank Cornacchiulo (author of “A Place Called Brooklyn”), when he saw the new combination of art and barbering, he said, “I was really impressed with that... I thought that was so dynamic.”

Although Flores’s art distinguishes his shop, to the locals he is still known as “Jessi the barber.” His favorite part of the job is that he can make a customer’s day.

“There’s something about a haircut, the transformation, that there is some magic to it, that you can bring somebody’s spirits up,” he continued. Getting to meet and have conversations with so many different people is another joy of his work. “People are so inspiring,” he added.

He sometimes gets the idea for a new piece because of a conversation he has with a customer. “Somebody says something, and boom, I have a blueprint for the next painting,” he said. “I may be having an artist’s block and someone could say something that could unlock it.”

His art is complex and varied, but often carries the same message of love and unity as a direct opponent to hate or division.

“Do what you love and you never work a day in your life,” Cornacchiulo said of Flores. “Jessi, by putting up his art, has been able to combine the things he loves.”

Find his art
During the pandemic, Jessi Flores’s art has been featured in the book “Fresh Plywood” by Kurt Boone Edwards, which highlighted work done in New York City during lockdown. To view his works in person, his art can be found at the Bowery Gallery, an artist-run gallery on Broome street in New York City.

To get a great haircut, a conversation, and view his art, his shop is located at 122 S. Country Rd., Bellport, NY 11713.

Although Flores’s art distinguishes his shop, to the locals he is still known as “Jessi the barber.” His favorite part of the job is that he can make a customer’s day.

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