Jason Barthel has been a cop for almost 15 years, but he’s always enjoyed running his own business.
Barthel, who works on the afternoon shift for the Mishawaka Police Department, used to own a plumbing company. He received a degree in business from Goshen College and was looking for a way to put his education to use again when he bought the South Bend Uniform Company in 2013.
“I’m trying to use my education and things I’ve built up to benefit not only my community, but also my family,” Barthel said.
When he took over the South Bend Uniform Company, he moved the business to the building next door and repainted. The business was renovated again in early 2015 to make room for Breathe Easy Barbery in the back of the store.
Breathe Easy Barbery opened in May and was named after the viral “Breathe Easy Don’t Break The Law” T-shirt.
About 50,000 of the shirts have been sold in all 50 states and in nine countries since they were first offered in December, Barthel said.
Barthel was already planning on adding a hair salon to the South Bend Uniform Company when he came up with the idea for the shirt, but the revenue boost he received from selling them led to an easy decision when it came time to name the business.
The other half of the name — barbery — isn’t even a real word, but it was coined by someone Barthel interviewed.
“It describes a place for everyone — men, women, children — to come in and get their hair cut,” Barthel said. “It softens that barber shop feel” while still letting men know that they can get an old school lather and shave.
Like the uniform company, Breathe Easy Barbery is open to the public, not just emergency services personnel and their families.
The space includes five chairs, a shampoo station and its own register, separate from the uniform company.
Breathe Easy Barbery is staffed by three employees. Theresa Yost and Tomeca Bailey, full-time cosmetologists, will soon also have their barber’s licenses. Ruben Reyes, a lifetime South Bend resident, is a full-time barber and specializes in urban art.
“He can put murals in your hair,” Yost said. “A lot of people think we just cut hair, but it’s an entire industry of art.”
Eventually, Barthel wants to have five full-time employees offering haircuts and shaves to customers throughout the week. He doesn’t plan to rent out any of the chairs.
A head massage is offered with all haircuts and straight razor shaves. The cosmetologists offer haircuts, styles, updos and braids. No chemical services, like hair color, are offered, but Yost says that allows the staff to give more personal attention to customers.
“We don’t just want it to be shampoo, cut, blow-dry and go,” she said. “We want it to be a personable, enjoyable experience.”
Breathe Easy Barbery is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Customers should enter through the large red doors in the rear parking lot, which is accessible from 23rd Street.
South Bend Uniform Company is located at 2302 Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend.