Paul McPherson: Re-imagining the Cool(est)

Barber and budding entrepreneur Paul McPherson, owner of The Coolest Cuts barber shop in Glenville, is doubling down on his investment by opening a fast food carry-out restaurant called Starr’s Burgers & Dogs.

Paul McPherson, owner of The Coolest Cuts in Glenville.

Paul McPherson, owner of The Coolest Cuts in Glenville.

Vision (vizh’әn) n. 4 a) the ability to perceive something not actually visible, as through mental acuteness or keen foresight

Barber and budding entrepreneur Paul McPherson is a visionary.

When it comes to his business, The Coolest Cuts Beauty and Barber Studio located at 927 East 123rd Street in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, McPherson sees what can be and works diligently towards making it a reality.

A graduate of Shaw High School, McPherson obtained his barber’s license in 2011, but he began cutting hair at age 12.  He attributes his cutting skills to a lifelong passion for drawing.

“I’ve always known how to draw.  To me, clippers are just another form of pencil,” he says. “I’ve always been creative with the clippers; it was a way to make fast money.  Now, I’m profiting from my craft and I’ve been blessed to find my niche.”

McPherson opened the current version of The Coolest Cuts in 2015, but the road from acquisition to grand opening was far from smooth. “I bought the building in 2013; it took me 2 ½ years to fix it up.” 

From 2011-2013, McPherson worked in Emani’s Barber Shop, where he initially launched his Coolest Cuts brand. Located only a block away from his current location, he was forced to close due to foreclosure on the building. 

“I was trying to stay in the area.  I got lucky and got this property,” McPherson said.

Starr’s Burgers and Dogs. Photo courtesy Nate Paige.

Starr’s Burgers and Dogs. Photo courtesy Nate Paige.

In its previous incarnation, the building at 927 housed a full service gas station with two repair bays. 

“Eventually, they stopped selling gas and focused on auto repairs,” says McPherson. “When I got ownership of the building, I discovered the interior had suffered extensive fire damage and there was a burned-out car in one of the bays. I saved one of the car lifts and built over it; I removed the other.”

As extensive as the interior damage was, renovating the exterior proved more expensive.  “I started from the outside.  There was a literal forest on the roof of the building and approximately four feet or dirt, trees and shrubs surrounding one side and the back of the building. After removing all the dirt, I created a small patio behind the building, enclosed with privacy fencing.”

While renovating the barber shop, McPherson had to have a complete wiring overhaul as well as new water lines installed underground to replace the lead piping.  Knowing he would one day do something else on the land, he had the water and power lines extended out to the far side of the property. 

McPherson’s latest venture is to open a fast-food carry-out restaurant in a trailer adjacent to the barber shop, which will be called Starr’s Burgers & Dogs and rented out to a business partner.

“My friends couldn’t fathom what I was trying to explain to them. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to create the restaurant separate from the main building.  I told them ‘I want to utilize all of my property.’” 

McPherson recently received approval from the Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals to move forward with the restaurant.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire process was done virtually. 

The company car. Photo courtesy Nate Paige.

The company car. Photo courtesy Nate Paige.

“One of the members of the zoning board came out to take photos of the property. He complimented my work and vision, and I really appreciated that.”

While McPherson is working out the finishing touches and paperwork with Starr’s, (he’s hoping to open the restaurant this spring) he’s already at work on adding another piece to his property puzzle: to acquire land directly across the street for a parking lot. Doing so would free up the meager street parking available in the immediate vicinity.

“I went to the Land Bank, and put in an application, along with sketches of my plans for the land. A hearing was initially scheduled months ago, but it’s been delayed multiple times due to COVID.”

McPherson has also received a letter of support from Councilman Kevin Conwell, as well as signatures from nearby residents in favor of his efforts. 

“Some people try to talk down about this area, but I’m helping keep the neighborhood alive, trying to build it back up for the next generation. People drive by and thank me; I’m just trying to keep it going.”

Learn more about the Glenville neighborhood on the Famicos website here.

Born and raised in East Cleveland, Nate Paige has contributed more than 25 years to local journalism. He got his professional start at the Cleveland Call & Post and would later get his foot in the door at as a copy editor. While there, he held a number of positions including entertainment reporter, community editor, hyperlocal producer, and social media coordinator. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.

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