It’s been an interesting 20 years for Jerry Bradford at JP Hair Design, where he says that one of the perks of his occupation as a barber at the popular Black barbershop on Madison’s west side is meeting so many interesting people and being part of an important hub in the community.
“The barbershop is an important place in the community. It’s a place where we communicate with each other and there’s such a great camaraderie between fellow barbers and fellow clients,” Bradford tells Madison365. “You end up meeting a lot of people from all walks of life … from people who have all the money to people who don’t have much.
“You have to find a baseline for everybody at the barbershop so everybody can feel as one,” he continues. “And that’s what a barbershop atmosphere brings. It makes everybody feel like everybody’s the same. And that’s what attracted me to this job and to the barbershop.”
Bradford is celebrating his 20th anniversary at JP Hair Design, a staple in the Madison community that strives to create a family-friendly atmosphere and whose motto is “bringing the community together.” Bradford officially started on Aug. 27, 2001.
“My cousin, Sean Gray, introduced me to [owner] JP [Patterson]. At that time, I was living in Chicago and Sean told me about JP and his barbershop up in Wisconsin that he was opening up and was wondering if I was interested in working there,” Bradford remembers.
Bradford came up to Madison from Chicago and had a trial run for Patterson.
“I had to cut some hairs in front of him just so he could see what I could do,” Bradford remembers, smiling. “The rest is history.”
Bradford quickly relocated to Madison. “I didn’t really know too much about Madison before I came,” he says. But soon he was attending Madison Technical College (now Madison College) and did an apprenticeship program for two years.
“I was able to get a practitioner’s license and went back and got my manager’s license as well. I’ve been blessed,” Bradford says.
Through the years, Bradford has learned more and more about his trade. One thing he knew that was important from the beginning was being able to talk to the customers.
“I’ve always been a social type of guy. Even when I was younger and into sports and playing high school basketball, I was always a social guy. It’s pretty easy for me to converse with customers that come in,” Bradford says.
A big topic at a men’s barbershop will always be sports – discussion, analysis, debate, etc. As a Chicago Bears fan in Packerland, Bradford says he’s been in more than one debate about football.
“But we go way beyond sports, too…. Politics, religion, family. We try to keep the arguing at a bare minimum, though. We keep it friendly,” he says. “We have some great discussions.”
Jeff “JP” Patterson, founder and owner of JP Hair Salon, tells Madison365 he is grateful for Bradford and says that he “has been a core team member of JP Hair Design since 2001.”
“Jerry is the life of the shop, and he brings a positive vibe to our atmosphere,” Patterson tells Madison365. “He has a great clientele and is a very valuable part of the brand. Congratulations to Jerry ‘Ellis’ Bradford for the 20 years of service to the community and working at JP Hair Design, Inc. Every business needs a Jerry Bradford. Much love to my Brother Jerry!”
Likewise, Bradford says it’s been “beautiful working with JP” the past two decades.
“He has really shown me the business aspect of barber styling and haircuts,” Bradford says. “A lot of times, people just think that we’re just some guys sitting behind a chair and watching TV and cutting hair but what they fail to realize is that there is a lot that goes into it.
“It’s just like a craftsman. You have to know your tools. You need to know your equipment and you need to know the business side of whatever profession you are in,” he continues. “And JP has taught me a lot of that and how to be successful and respectful. He’s taught me how to take care of my taxes and how to do my due diligence and has helped me to be a business owner as a whole. I really commend him for that. He opened up another door for me that I couldn’t have seen just by cutting hair. He’s been a blessing.”
Bradford says he’s very happy about his decision to come to Madison to join JP Hair 20 years ago
“I’ve got my regular customers and I’m starting to see the next generation. So that is really cool. Even post-COVID, I’m getting a whole bunch of new people that did some at-home barber cuts during the pandemic, and it didn’t go as planned,” Bradford smiles. “So they’ve been looking for a barber to come to and they found me.
“I love that I am able to control my own schedule and just being able to work when I feel like it and being able to take days off when I need to,” Bradford continues. “I like being able to be my own person and do things in my own timeframe. That’s the best part of what I do.
“It’s been an amazing 20 years,” he adds. “I’ve been blessed.”