Struggling Toronto barbershop owner pays it forward after community rallies to offer support

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TORONTO -- Andy Dinner opened Your Neighbourhood Barbershop on Lakeshore Boulevard in Etobicoke last September. His business was open for 88 days before being required to temporarily close due to the pandemic.

“I come in here maybe once or twice a week to kind of sweep up dust,” he said.

Even as a new business owner, Dinner’s first order of business was to give back.

“We’re all family-owned shops here. We’re like a small town community in a big city right on this street — that’s why I love it as much as I do.”

Dinner gave free haircuts once a week to people with special needs at a day program called Mimico S.N.A.P.

“For one of our members it was his first time having a hair cut in a barbershop, so that was a beautiful moment and a really great experience,” said Denise Cummings, the program’s director.

The reoccurring lockdowns in Ontario have made business difficult, especially on the service industry.

“My life savings are gone. I’m not the kind of person to ask for anything, at any point,” he said.

It took him a lot of courage to ask for help, he said.

Dinner launched a crowd-funding campaign on Friday to help with rent and bills for two months.

Within a few hours, he exceeded his goal of $4,000. Instead of keeping the extra cash, Dinner raised the goal to $10,000 to help out his neighbours.

“I plan on paying some of their bills just to alleviate some of their stress,” he said.

With his rent paid until August, Dinner said he will continue to focus on paying it forward.