2 Albanian barbers live the American dream with new shop
Bledi “Billy” Agolli, and Meriton “Tony” Klobuchishda opened Empire Barber Shop NYC in West Brighton in August.
By : Tracey Porpora – Staten Island Advance – (firstname.lastname@example.org)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Growing up in the small Albanian town of Diber, Bledi “Billy” Agolli, 29, watched from a young age as his uncle and grandfather worked in old-fashioned barber shops.
Intrigued, he followed their lead, and honed his craft cutting men’s hair in his native country. After emigrating from Albania to the United States in 2010, he landed on Staten Island, and began to work locally for barber shops.
Around the same time, his best friend and fellow barber, Meriton “Tony” Klobuchishda, 25, came to the country as well.
“We came here for the opportunity — the American dream. You try hard. You work hard. And this is what you need to do to be successful in your life,” said Agolli.
After working together at local barber shops on Staten Island, Agolli and Klobuchishda wanted to make their American dream come true.
“If you love what you do, it’s easy,” said Agolli. “So many people do their jobs just for money. But we love what we do.”
A NEW BUSINESS
In August, they opened Empire Barber Shop NYC on Forest Avenue in West Brighton.
“America is the best country in the world. It has so many opportunities, and we want to be successful,” said Klobuchishda.
“We want to make customers happy, and we want them to believe in us,” he added.
Specializing in “scissor cuts” the pair offers buzz cuts, designs, towel shaves and more.
IMMIGRATION NOT EASY
Starting the business came after the two Albania natives overcame the hardships of immigration. The hardest part of emigrating from Albania was not knowing the language, they said.
“It’s hard. It was hard communicating at first, but then we learned the language,” said Agolli.
“I knew a little (English) that was taught in school, but once we came here and started talking with the customers, we learned,” he added.
It was also hard to leave members of his family “back home,” said Agolli.
“It’s hard to start a new life, with everything new.”
Klobuchishda, a new father, said he plans to work hard to give his daughter a better life in this country. “We want her to go to better schools and to be successful in her life, that’s why we are here,” he said.
Agolli and Klobuchishda said they have discovered the key to success, as they are not only business partners, but they are like brothers.
“You can trust nobody in these days, but when you have a good relationship with a friend and you consider him, like a brother, it works,” said Agolli.
“We never fight. We are always happy,” added Klobuchishda.
EMPIRE BARBER SHOP NYC AT A GLANCE
Address: 1192 Forest Ave., West Brighton