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@Work: Teria's Casual Kuts

Oct. 12, 2006 — Don't worry about the name — Jermaine Weston runs a clean barbershop.
"'Teria' is short for bacteria," says Weston, who owns and operates Teria's Casual Kuts in Frederiksted. A mischievous childhood led to Weston's unusual nickname — and the name of his shop. Because he went all over the place "like bacteria," Weston says, the older folks named him "Bacteria," or Teria for short.
That mischievous child grew up to become a successful entrepreneur, opening his little shop on King Street. If you didn't know it was there, you could have passed it by many times. But if you step into the shop and talk to the people there, you'll never forget the location. Weston loves for people to come in and chat.
"I am like a bartender or priest," says Weston, calling himself a "$10 psychiatrist." "People tell me their problems and I give them my opinion." The discount doctor takes care of your head inside while making your cut tight and sharp outside.
All over TV and the big screen, barbers have started loaning their $10 to the advice pool. With movies like "Barbershop" and TV shows like MTV's "The Shop," the secrets of barbershop banter have become well known. When you walk in Kuts, it feels like coming home.
After more than 10 years cutting hair, Weston felt confident of his first venture out on his own. "I used to work at Hess," he says. But he grew disenchanted with the environment there, so he took what started as a hobby and turned it into a lucrative business.
Weston doesn't call his success luck; it took him years to get here. But while cutting hair in the backyard of his Mon Bijou home, he says, more and more friends kept telling him, "You should go in a shop." He couldn't keep ignoring the signs.
At the first shop he worked in, Weston learned the basics and got scooped up by another shop owner who saw his talent. "He really took me under his wing," Weston says about his second boss. "He taught me about the business." The third shop owner he worked for, Anthony "Papo" Navarro of Extreme Cuts, told Weston that after three years of working together it was time for him to get "out on his own."
The driving force behind that move came from Weston's brother: "He told me to stop blowing up other shops and just blow up my own." With the help of his brother and parents, Weston managed to purchase his space and find other barbers to rent chairs there.
Kuts is a small, cozy shop. Even in this male-dominated little part of the world, Weston says it's important that all his customers feel comfortable. Everyone is equal, he says, male or female.
"Talk," he says. "Speak your mind, don't hold anything back."
Weston also keeps his door open to children — his own and others.
"Kids are the future of this shop," Weston says, insisting he would rather see eight kids in his shop than on the streets. "We're dying out there," he says.
That open-door policy comes with only one rule: Be positive. Weston attributes the high amount of repeat customers to the positive vibe in the shop.
"I encourage anything that is more positive than negative," he says.
Weston wants to touch anyone willing to hear his advice. "I don't have any problem teaching," Weston says. "I was molded by someone else."
That drive helps explain why Akeem Johannes works the chair next to him. The 20-year-old barber has gone through more shops than he can remember, but says Teria's Casual Kuts "hopefully will be the last" — until he gets his own, of course.
Weston says he encourages people to better themselves, even if that means guys like Johannes won't stick around forever.
"I want to see other people succeed," he says.
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