‘One man sharpens another’ at Iron Rite Barbershop

Thursday, January 23, 2020 | 12:01 AM

There’s a particular verse from the book of Proverbs that sums up John Klein’s vision of barbering: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

In September 2019, Klein opened Iron Rite Barbershop in the basement of an old church building in Leetsdale that is now owned by Hill City Church. After walking down the steps and entering the basement shop, guests are greeted not with blaring TVs and loud music, but by an energetic, tattooed young barber, antique decorations and bar seating designed to facilitate conversation for waiting clients. For the 29-year-old Klein, opening Iron Rite Barbershop is the fulfillment of a vision that was years in the making.

After moving from Michigan to Pittsburgh to attend barber school, Klein got a job at Main Street Barbers in Monaca. There, he met Zack Blair, a client of Main Street Barbers and current pastor at Hill City Church.

As Blair recalled, Klein eventually joined the church community, where he plays drums in the worship band every Sunday.

But in 2018, Klein and his wife, Carly, decided they needed a change of scene, and they moved to Florida in June of that year.

At the time, Klein knew he eventually wanted his own barbershop and even had a name picked out. Iron Rite was the name of a former cleaning company in Ambridge. The sign had adorned the current Red Cap Cleaners building on Melrose Avenue, before it caught his attention. Klein said he later purchased it from the owner of Red Cap Cleaners.

“John always wanted to open his own shop. It was one of those things where everyone else thought he was ready except for him. He wanted to have the experience of working in a shop in a different area,” Carly said of the couple’s move to Florida.

A surprise call from Blair proved to be the nudge that he needed.

“He called and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea for you.’ That was in February,” Klein said. “We moved up in June (2019) and started building it out.”

Blair’s unorthodox idea of bringing a barbershop into the basement of an old church fit with his larger goal of investing in enterprises that could, in turn, benefit the community.

“We say that our mission is pointing people to Jesus and purpose,” Blair said. “With that mission … we want to serve the community, and we’re not serving unless we’re providing jobs.”

Hill City Church holds most of its services at Moon Area Middle School. It uses the building in Leetsdale as a multipurpose space. Upstairs, the Audience of One Dance Studio run by Lia Logsdon helps young girls form a sense of identity, using dance as a medium. A community fitness gym is also in the works for the basement, along with a space for coffee roasting. The church could use proceeds from the latter activity to support missionary work in Peru, according to Blair.

“It always goes back to people for me. I love sitting in the basement of that church and getting to know the people that come down there,” Klein said of his experience running Iron Rite.

While his passion for drawing and shading got him interested in barbering initially, he added that serving others is his main motivation.

He sees Iron Rite as a place where men can converse, bounce ideas off each other and get new perspectives on their problems. The shop has already started gaining momentum as a community hub.

Occasionally, people will come down to sit at the reclaimed wood bar and talk, whenever they have an hour or so to kill, Klein also said.

According to Blair, young men have a lot to learn from Klein. In the future, Blair said he hopes to see a young person develop a relationship with him and perhaps become an apprentice in the shop – so that one man may sharpen another.

“Guys will open up to John about everything because he’s clearly a safe person. He’s clearly a person who genuinely cares, and people know that,” said Blair.