Bent over the barber chair, Devan Johnson of Incredible Creations, gently glides the razor across the beard of his client, the lines perfect and symmetrical as if a work of living art. A graduate of UC's DAAP program with a focus in architectural engineering, Devan traded his drafting pencil for an old-fashioned razor. He wanted to touch lives. And as a barber, he can and has.
"When God puts you in a position, it is not about you. There is nothing more intimate than putting hands on a person, people you see once or twice a week for years. They become family, brothers."
Devan's extended family spans the city -- from Paul Brown Stadium to Great American Ball Park, from Price Hill to Indian Hill. During football season, he's at the Bengals Stadium taking care of clients, including Marvin Lewis, Chris Henry, and Vinnie Ray to name a few. When the Reds are in town, he can be found in the locker rooms, keeping our home run hitters ready for the glare of the cameras.
And he even travels. Devan heads to Los Angeles for a few months with his client, comedian Gary Owens, for the NAACP Image Awards. While a stylist to the stars, Devan still only charges twenty dollars a cut, keeping his prices low so he can continue to serve his patrons. Many of those relationships go back decades.
Clients walk in off the streets, Devan's barber chair in clear view of the picture window on 12th and Vine, a few doors down from Lavomatic Cafe.
A merchant marine enters with the gift of a bottle of wine for Devan. Bill Moustakim describes why he refuses to have his hair cut, no matter how many weeks on the road, until he is in Cincinnati:
"This is a brotherhood. When you come in here, it's like steel sharpening steel, minds attracting like minds. One day I came in and he was cutting Terrell Owens' hair. Devan has a lot of love and passion for what he does. What gets me the most is that he wants to give back and be a positive motivation in other people's lives. I don't know many people in this city, and it is a blessing to know this brother, this beautiful soul."
Devan responds, "This is my brother. He goes out of town. He works so much on the road. Our conversations are so full of love. We build. Iron sharpens iron. When you're around people who can show you to be better in different ways, you learn."
Another client, Leon Harris, joins the conversation. Now 35, he has had his hair trimmed each week by Devan since he was 18. "After I get my hair cut, I feel like I can be on the front page of Ebony magazine. He is just a great guy. He met my mom. I met his mom. I call him my big brother. We're family. "
Devan explains, "It is not about making money. The money will come. It is about loving what you do. I have been blessed."
Blessed, he has been. He's living his life-long dream of working alongside his high school sweetheart Kym in the only salon in Cincinnati that is truly a family affair with a barbershop in front and a beauty salon in back. His life is filled with the opportunities to serve clients from every walk of life. With broad light streaming into the picture windows of the storefront salon, the high ceilings and wide-open spaces are evocative of a Soho loft.
And that's exactly the way Devan and Kym wanted it: a salon as lofty as their own ideals.
Want to visit Incredible Creations? 'Course ya do!
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Enjoy meeting Devan & Kym Johnson? Say "Hi" to a few more amazing folks doing great things in the city: The PLAYERS.
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