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Manny "Fresko" Lopez, 29, owns FresKo FadeZ Barbershop that caters to a younger clientele.

By Maggie Menderski maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com

Barbering was always in the picture for Manny "Fresko" Lopez.

A snapshot hanging on the wall at FresKo FadeZ Barbershop shows the 29-year-old barber trimming his father's hair more than two decades ago. Fresko has barbering in his blood. His father, Delfino Lopez, supported his family cutting hair in homes and his grandmother had a salon in Mexico.

"My dad, he provided for us with this, and I fell in love with it," Fresko said.

Still, the overall picture has changed quite a bit in 20 years. These days Fresko isn't reaching up over a back chair with a barber belt hanging loosely from him like he did in the '90s. His seven-chair barbershop on the edge of downtown Sarasota near North Lime Avenue and Sixth Street has a comfortable but urban flare to it.

His brand has grown from his first set of homemade business cards to a catchy logo featuring two Fs and a barber's pole. Faces like Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe appear on the walls alongside the enlarged snapshot of Delfino Lopez, flashing a grin and getting a trim from his son.

"Even then he already had in his mind what he wanted to do in his life," Lopez said. "And no matter what obstacle came before him and to keep going. That's what he wanted, to have his own barbershop."

He started out small and opened a two-chair barbershop in a 300-square-foot, duplex style building at 2257 Sixth St. in March 2012. He outgrew that space rapidly and expanded to rent out the second half of the building.

The overflow continued and in 2013 he moved into 459 N. Lime Ave. The growth, lately, is a little more subtle. Most recently, he began selling barber supplies to other shops in the Sarasota area.

Eventually, Fresko said, he may need to open a second shop, but that's not a move he'll make in the immediate future.

He pours free beer from a keg in the back for his adult customers, and adjusts the shop's music based on who's sitting in the chair. Urban lyrics and beats don't mesh with kid's haircuts, and Fresko gets the whole gamut of customers in his shop.

"It's not just about the haircut," he said. "It's about everything, the vibe and the environment."

Longtime customer

Calvin Williams drives to Fresko's from St. Petersburg every time he needs a haircut.

The economics teacher at Dixie M. Hollins High School in St. Petersburg remembers Fresko as a student in the school's cosmetology program and building a business plan in his own class. His eyes welled with pride the first time he came to Fresko's shop a few years ago.

But he's been a longtime customer.

Fresko had the skills and personality of a barber even before he started taking cosmetology classes at the school, Williams said.

The then-young, unlicensed barber gave Williams haircuts in the classroom, an honor no other Dixie M. Hollins High School student has had since.

"He's the only (student) who has ever touched my head," Williams said. "There was just something about his persona that made me feel comfortable to allow me to do that. I'm just impressed by the attention to detail."

Julio Madrigal, 25, and his son Aiden, 4, waited more than a half hour for a walk-in spot in Fresko's chair one afternoon. Madrigal moved to the area just about the time Fresko opened his shop, and he's developed a strong loyalty to his barber. He attended a barbecue in August that Fresko hosted at the shop, where the barbershop staff gave more than 80 free haircuts, served a free meal and set up games for the kids.

"I'd only wait for him," Madrigal said. "That's the man. He keeps it flavorful, and he does a lot of things for the community."

Courtesy and respect

Fresko prides himself on community involvement, courtesy, respect and the overall vibe of his shop, and credits that attitude with the dramatic growth his business has seen in just four years.

But even though FresKo FadeZ has grown since the days of cutting hair at his parents' home, the dream hasn't changed. He's proud of his family and his career, and that's something he's passed on to his own children.

His oldest son, Manuel, has a barber kit and just like his father, the 12-year-old has practiced on his grandfather's hair. It's only a matter of time, Fresko says, before they recreate the snapshot hanging on the barbershop wall, this time with Fresko in the chair and Manuel holding the clippers.

But barbering is already part of the next generation's picture, too: Manuel talks about owning his own barbershop.