I’ve been getting my haircut at Dick’s Service Station since it opened a couple years ago. I love how it’s conveniently located on Main Street, just a block walk away from our home. It’s incredibly affordable for the job they do and it’s super clean. More importantly is the vibe you get when you walk in, the place exudes a fun energy that instantly fetters me.
The moment I enter I’m greeted by Chris, the nail tech. If he isn’t doing nails he’s floating the room as the hype man, and if he has time he always sits with me for some small talk as I wait for Dustin, my barber, to finish his current client. And here is an insider tip : If you go to Dick’s you must have a small talk session with Chris! He’s hysterical and you would be missing out on a one of a kind experience if you don’t!
I look around and everyone is talking and laughing, perfuming the air with “tea” and anecdotes. Dustin always gets to me on time, which doesn’t come easy when your book is usually full, and never fails with an outstanding haircut and some good conversation. This is what I get as a client at Dick’s Service Station. However, this article is about the men behind the establishment – owners Eric McKnight and Christian Santiago, who prove that community engagement brings service to another level.
It’s an interesting story since neither Eric nor his husband and business partner Christian had ever owned a barber shop before. While frequenting their previous barber shop, which Eric states was a great operation, they discovered that many of the stylists wanted to stay together but desired something different. As entrepreneurs, Eric and Christian realized an idea that could bring the stylists the change they desired while continuing to work on the same team – and just like that Oakland Park got Dick’s Service Station.
Before all this, when Eric was eighteen years old, he joined the NYPD and would eventually rise the ranks to Detective. Unfortunately, after being injured in the line of duty, he made the decision to retire early. At the same time, Christian was working for NBC, but would eventually decide to switch his career; raising money and writing grants for a not-for-profits that dealt with autism. Though they both worked in two different fields, both were all about giving back to the community and they wanted this to manifest into something more.
The brutal winters chased them down to south Florida part-time, but before long the two settled here, spending their time buying rentals and fixing them up to rent. Eric took on other endeavors like renting catering equipment and even some work as a body guard in Miami. Sure, it was occupying time and keeping him busy, but the opportunity came for them to start Dick’s and so they did… from the ground up.
I described my experiences at Dick’s Service Station as a client, but they do more for the community than simply making us look our best, and this is a huge reason, aside from Dustin’s cuts and the atmosphere, I choose to patronize them. During their first week of business they raised around $1500 for an individual in Wilton Manors whom was recovering from cancer. They presented it to him in a cash envelope to assist him during his convalescence. They also did a calendar that raised almost $10,000 which was subdivided by three different organizations: Poverello, The Gay Mens Chorus, and a cancer research charity named St. Baldrick’s. Eric explained, “We were able to get all the expenses underwritten by a couple different sponsors so that 100% of the proceeds were able to go right to those three organizations.”
They participate in car washes three times a year with Broward House by supplying them with all the hamburgers, hot dogs, sodas, condiments and paper products. As the Broward House team does the car wash, the customers can mosey to the booth for a free hamburger or hot dog and a bottled water for whatever they choose to donate. Eric and Christian even add little incentives the more money you give, like t-shirts and $1 haircuts. This raises Broward House anywhere from $1500-$2500 every time they participate and the events only run for four hours!
“We do The Smart Ride, where we don’t physically ride but are part of the support team. For the three days we help set up and take down for every event from Miami to the half-way point and back up again for the final event. We’ve also set up a second barber shop over at Poverello where we took over a 400 square foot room with a basic chair and a mirror leaning up against the wall. That was their barber shop. They would have barbers come in and give free haircuts to Poverello’s clients. So what we did was we came in and took over the whole room and had it all painted to look just like our shop, with a brand new barber chair, and basically what it looks like in one of our stations; the rolling cart, the mirror, the wall decor, chair and mat. We donated all that equipment and the monthly supplies for that shop so that other barbers and our barbers can go there. They (each barber) donate four hours a year giving haircuts, which has equated to somewhere around 3500 free haircuts for the community.”
Without a doubt, having Dick’s Service Station in Oakland Park not only benefits our physical appearance and moxie, it benefits the community at large. With the work that Eric, Christian and the rest of the barbers at Dick’s do for the community combined with award winning cuts (check out some of their barbers credentials!) there’s no reason to go anywhere else. Supporting Dick’s Service Stations makes me proud to live in Oakland Park. Keep on taking service to another level.
Steven Mayer is a local Floridian who grew up in the South Corals area of Oakland Park most of his life. He attended Rickards Middle, Northeast High and earned his B.A. in English from FAU. He’s done some writing and editorial work for a south Florida lifestyle magazine and is proud to have been a partner with Starbucks for a total of 18 years.
After testing out a couple U.S. cities in his twenties, Steven realized that nothing beats home, and eventually settled back down in the Downtown Oakland Park area with his partner Douglas (another Oakland Park native), their three Pekinese dogs and two beautiful cats.
Steven enjoys anything Disney, vegan cooking, going for runs, attending local festivals, traveling, and game nights with friends and family.