Bad-boy barber converts shed into barbershop, mancave

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz., May 23, 2013

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Barber and owner of "Aub's Unique Barber Shop," Aubrey Dahozy, from Fort Defiance, poses in front of his small shop Tuesday in Fort Defiance.

SECOND FROM TOP: Barber Aubrey Dahozy carefully cuts a customer's hair at his shop in Fort Defiance on Tuesday.

THIRD FROM TOP: Barber Aubrey Dahozy cuts a customer's hair.

A A large-screen TV fills one corner of the one-room building. A basketball hoop hangs on the edge of the loft. A collage of scantily clad women plasters the ceiling.

Is this a barbershop or a man cave?

It's both, and it's the most creative use we've seen yet for the portable buildings that are springing up all over the Navajo Nation like mushrooms after a rain (see accompanying story).

Aubrey "Aubs" Dahozy calls his shop south of the Fort Defiance hospital "Aub's Unique Barber Shop," and that is no exaggeration.

Aub's Unique Barber Shop is also Aub's unique home. His bed is in the loft, his bicycle hangs on a hook, his dizzying array of baseball caps hangs on hooks for his mostly male clientele to admire.

The energetic 30-something gives a new meaning to "starting small."

"I'm doing good," he says. "People are knocking on my door even Sundays and Mondays, which are supposed to be my days off."

Dahozy puts out his barber pole when he's ready to receive customers, and takes it down when he's not, but that doesn't stop them. As anyone who works out of his home knows, it's sometimes difficult to draw the line.

Today, for instance, his uncle has his nose pressed against the window glass.

"I need a haircut!" he demands. "You open?"

"I'm being interviewed, Uncle!" Dahozy snaps.

"See what I mean?" he whispers to the reporter.

Even without knowing how he cuts hair, it's easy to see why Dahozy is in such high demand. You kind of want him to cut your hair on the off chance that some of his bodacious energy will flow through your scalp and into your soul.

But Dahozy was not always the whirlwind of positive energy depicted in the mural by his cousin that covers one tiny wall. He's seven months sober, which any alcohol-dependent person knows is a tenuous claim to make. Dahozy got sober, opened his business and seized his own redemption all about the same time last October.

As a teen, Dahozy said he got into drugs and dropped out of school.

"I was a teenager at risk, running wild," he said, quoting some of the clichés applied to him. He bounced between jail and alternative programs, where he would do real well but then get into trouble again the minute he got out.

But all the while, he was cutting hair. He had started on himself and his friends when he was 12.

"I was probably the only kid who got clippers for Christmas," he said.

In Project Challenge and Job Corps, he cut his fellow campers' hair for three or four dollars. In jail, he did it for "noodles, Jolly Ranchers and pickles," he recalls.

"I used to do terrible things to people," he admits. "But at the same time, I could see how nice it was to make people feel good about themselves."

In Job Corps, he completed both his GED and his carpentry certificate, but barbering remained his first love.

"My Grandma said, 'Why don't you go to barber school?'" he recalls.

He signed up for one in Gallup — the only male in a class of 23.

Dahozy didn't care. He was in his own personal heaven.

"In high school I never did homework," he says, "but for this trade, I was reading like I never had before."

Dahozy graduated, got his license, and bounced around to three different barbershops in Gallup before he settled in at Pro Cuts. But no one had told him that hairdressing was a hard-partying profession. One after the other, his two favorite mentors died of cirrhosis of the liver.

You would think that would have been a wake-up call, but "I started drinking harder than ever," Dahozy recalls. Worried about their talented but apparently doomed son, his family decided to lure him back to Fort Defiance, where they could keep an eye on him.

"They bought me this building," Dahozy said, starting to tear up. But his customers followed him to Fort, and in short order he was able to take over the payments.

While some find small portable buildings like Dahozy's a sad sign of the recession, he's perfectly happy in his little bachelor nest.

"This building made it possible for me to start my own business," he chirps, noting the payments aren't much higher than the $120 to $150 he used to pay for a booth at a salon.

Even through his drug-saturated years, Dahozy was always the spiritual type.

"I talk to God all the time," he confides.

By his late 20s, he had evolved his own religion — a blend of Navajo mysticism, the Bible (which he refers to as "Bro"), inspiration from his hero Michael Jordan, and Rhonda Byrne's best-selling 2006 self-help book, "The Secret."

There's no arguing with success, and it works for Dahozy.

"All these things," he says, looking around at his kitschily hip surroundings, "have come to me because I believed they would."

At the moment he's visualizing his next goals: to put plumbing in the shop and a basketball court and roping dummy out front so his customers, mostly young Navajo men like himself, have something to do while they wait for a haircut. That's assuming they don't want to watch sports on TV or relax on the couch.

For himself, Dahozy's got a picture of a grey Jeep — his dream car — on the mirror, and he's trying to conjure the perfect mate. He doesn't care if she can compete with the sylphs on the ceiling as long as she can cook. That seems to be the one thing Dahozy can't do; when he's not microwaving Hot Pockets in his pad, he trots behind the shop to his grandmother's house to see if she's cooking a meal.

After the transformation he's made, nobody minds helping out Dahozy, according to his cousin, Phylander Kirk, who has dropped by to talk to Dahozy about the Web site Kirk is setting up for him.

"To see him come this far and be successful," says Kirk, tearing up a little himself, "it's very admirable."

Portables popping up all over

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE — Drive along any road in the Navajo Nation and you'll see them ... little wooden buildings that look like miniature barns. Some of them are storage sheds, but others have little porches with cars parked in front of them, and are clearly being lived in.

An affordable housing solution for the Great Recession? Or a sad commentary on the dearth of low-income housing on the rez?

Former Navajo Housing Authority head Chester Carl, during a break from his recent trial on corruption charges (he was acquitted), believes the latter.

"It's sad to see all those storage buildings fixed up like houses on lots in Gallup," Carl said then. "People can't get financing for trailers any more so they're paying $30,000 and living in those things."

Carl blamed the NHA for failing to build enough housing.

But for some, like 31-year-old barber Aubrey "Aubs" Dahozy of Fort Defiance (see accompanying story), the portable he lives in and runs his business out of is a portal to independence.

His family made the down payment for him, he said, but when the business started taking off, he took over the payments.

"It makes me feel so good, making the payments every month," Dahozy said. "No one is helping me. I'm doing this on my own."

Well, sort of ... the portable is set up in front of his grandmother's house, and he pops into Gram's for meals and to use the bathroom (he has satellite TV, but his tiny bachelor pad has yet to be graced with plumbing).

For young singles like Dahozy, an elderly couple, or a single mom with one or two kids, the portables are large enough to live comfortably in, said Sheldon Spencer, who sells Graceland brand portable buildings out of his family's tire shop along U.S. 191 in Chinle.

And Carl's figure of $30,000 is way high. Spencer sells a basic 384-square-foot shell for under $4,000, with a down payment of $332 and financing as low as $166 a month. A deluxe, 392-square-foot building with a porch and two sleeping lofts is under $10,000 with a down payment of $893.

Spencer said he doesn't do credit checks, and so far hasn't had much problem with non-payment.

The company also sells small-scale furniture and mattresses to fit in the tiny houses, and can finance those items as well when you purchase them with a building.

The portables are just shells, with no insulation or dry wall, but Spencer said his family fixed one up for their tire shop for about $1,500. Of course, making one into a real house with heating, plumbing and a kitchen would cost far more, perhaps getting into the realm of Carl's estimate.

But it's still far cheaper than a regular house, and unlike a home you build yourself, you can have a roof over your head right away.

"They come pre-built," Spencer explained. "We just put one on a trailer and deliver it to you. Free within 50 miles."

As long as you live on a paved road, right?

"Not necessarily," said Spencer. "You'd be surprised where we've taken some of these things."

Whatever you think of the diminutive dwellings, they're in high demand. Spencer sells 16 or 17 a month.

Dealers in the border towns are also doing a land-office business. Thirty miles south of Spencer's shop, a truck driver was fueling his vehicle, which was pulling a trailer laden with a portable.

He said he was delivering for a shop in Milan, N.M., and was headed all the way to Utah — a long trip, he groused, at 40 miles per hour.

"I deliver one or two of these a day," he said.

How many of them are being used as homes?

"I have no idea," he said. "I just deliver 'em. It's not my business what they do with them."