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Wills recognizes businesses in SE Queens for civic service

City Councilman Ruben Wills (r.) is joined by other elected officials in honoring the employees of the Playaz Den barbershop in South Jamaica. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

Keeping a small business running for 17 years is an achievement in and of itself, but for a South Jamaica barbershop’s successes to be measured in more than dollars and cents is an accomplishment worthy of recognition.

Officials honored the Playaz Den barbershop Oct. 25 for almost two decades of keeping the storefront on Sutphin Boulevard occupied and feeding the local economy.

“But that is not the only thing we’re here to recognize,” said City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who along with other officials chose the shop as the starting point for a tour of southeast Queens businesses that have gone above and beyond to become true pillars of their communities.

Wills said owner Yemi Blair and barbers James Ginn, Paul Echols and Darryl Capers not only made Playaz Den the place to go to keep looking ship-shape, but also help out the less fortunate by giving free haircuts to those who need a little leg up.

Blair said he was truly honored and it was only “by the grace of God” that he had been able to keep the business running as long as he had. He said he wished he knew who to turn to for help and information when he was starting up all those years ago.

Robert Walsh, commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, said government could do a better job helping small businesses coordinate with all the different agencies and private companies they need to get up and running, and congratulated Playaz Den for its achievements.

“Seventeen years is no easy feat,” he said.

State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Small Businesses, said it is places like Playaz Den that grow communities.

“If we have better businesses, we have people who want to move into the community,” he said.

Wills said other businesses on his tour had demonstrated similar commitments.

Mara’s Hair Studio, at 137-42 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Wills said, hosted a day to pamper young women who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

The Hisbiscus Restaurant, at 124-18 101st Ave., and Carifesta Restaurant, at 126-15 Liberty Ave., had on multiple occasions given free meals to the needy.

Wills said Playaz Den would be the first stop this December when he planned to kick off an initiative in which he would recruit barbershops that would serve as “places of safety” where young people in danger could turn to for help.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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