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Local barbering program offers path to success

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ll Mulino’s Williamsville location offers barbering but also coloring, aesthetic services and and women's cuts.

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When the pandemic arrived, Benjamin Zenosky wasn’t sure what to do.

He’d been in fine dining for a few years, having worked his way from washing dishes to a position as a server caring for guests in the dining room and at offsite catering gigs.

But by the summer of 2020, the state’s shifting mandates meant his role was often obsolete. Like so many in customer-facing industries, he had no clear path forward and bills to pay. He knew he needed to find a new line of work that would sustain him—not just through the pandemic, but for the future.

Over the years, Zenosky had become friendly with his barber, as many do. The pair occasionally discussed the overlap in their professions; both of their workdays included providing white glove customer service. For Zenosky, summer stints in high school as a golf caddy for a country club combined with his experience in fine dining had honed this skill set.

Jared White, founder and principal of Il Mulino and Zenosky’s barber, values this ability. It’s part of the curriculum at The Academy, a training program he developed at Il Mulino. It’s also one of the things that made Zenosky, his then-client, stand out.

Scissor work, clipper skills, hot shaves and other grooming techniques are part of The Academy’s focus. So is the interpersonal piece for which Zenosky demonstrated such a natural affinity.

There’s a lot to learn, and White believes the training available elsewhere in Western New York doesn’t meet the level of knowledge and skill a luxury barber shop like Il Mulino demands.

“We teach our students how to create repeat clients,” says White. “That requires an ability to develop a genuine connection, to illustrate great care and to listen carefully. We work to ensure operators understand how to care for clients from the minute they arrive for an appointment until the moment they leave.”

Around 20 students are currently enrolled at The Academy; students visit Il Mulino’s’ five locations, learning from its staff of more than 20 master barbers.

Zenosky entered the program approximately 18 months ago. Once he attained certain skills, he was able to work as an operator. Today he’s been cutting hair for a little over a year and expects to test for his Master Barber license soon.

“It was important that I earn a living while learning a new trade. I was able to do that here,” says Zenosky.

“I’m also earning far more than I did at my previous job.”

The Academy is identified as an apprenticeship while the company’s counsel pursues legal accreditation.

Today the program has several students headed toward their Master Barber licenses, including Zenosky. “I’ve got a full appointment book,” says Zenosky, “but I’m also a lead instructor now. Everything at Il Mulino is about developing skills, service and relationships.

It’s fantastic and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.”

A partnership with roots

The Academy at Il Mulino has been recognized by the Seneca Nation of Indians due to owner Jared White’s Native American roots. This partnership allows members of the tribe who choose to enroll in the program to do so knowing costs are covered by the Seneca Nation.

“I am Seneca, and the tribe has formally recognized The Academy as a trade school,” says White. “Nation members will be enrolled in The Academy through Gowanda, Silver Creek, Lake Shore, and Salamanca.”

People interested in The Academy’s program and Il Mulino’s range of services can visit the website, email academy@weareilmulino.com or call 716-954-2981.

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