Gabriel Quiñones (GQ) has lived in La Puente, CA, a community just 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley, since his early childhood. He opened his shop, GQ Cuts, in 2007 when he was just 20 years old. In 2020, he was elected by the residents to sit on the five-member City Council. Aside from being a business owner and council member, GQ is an international educator for Johnny B haircare. He took some time to answer our questions about his unique standing in the community:
Barbering Today: What was your initial interest in opening a barbershop?
Quiñones: "I decided to open up my own shop when I was in beauty school. The idea was to have my own space in the neighborhood I grew up in. I wanted to do hair how I wanted. At that time in my neighborhood, all the fellas were getting short haircuts. I wanted to show the potential in styling and haircuts—to showcase fashion forward beauty in our own community without people having to drive out to Beverly Hills or Los Angeles. I started working at such a young age, so I was able to pull out of my 401k and use savings to pour funding into the start up of GQ Cuts."
BARBERING TODAY: How is your shop a cornerstone in your neighborhood?
Quiñones: "GQ Cuts has become the shop of choice in La Puente. The shop has grown into its own character with a team of barbers and stylists that work well together and embrace every person who comes in for a visit. Everyone and any hair textures are welcome. Clients come for informed recommendations and the latest trends. Our team attends hair shows and most of us are ambassadors to hair care lines. We are always sharing knowledge and techniques with each other."
BARBERING TODAY: How does your shop practice inclusivity?
Quiñones: "We have always incorporated inclusivity from day one. Our clients range from younger to older folks, all races with different hair textures to all genders. I have to say I’m grateful for the team I work alongside. I’m extremely proud that a person from the LGBTQ+ community can walk into my shop and comfortably ask for a skin tight fade without having to put up a front and pretend to be someone else. We recognize that it is a real issue and we appreciate the open dialogue our queer and trans community has with our business."
BARBERING TODAY: What did your time as a city council member impact the shop and the city?
Quiñones: "Currently I am a sitting Council Member with two years left. I’m not sure if I have enough time to complete the initiatives I’m working on. I think to myself, what an opportunity for a business owner, a barber at that, to be given the chance to go up to bat for their community. I truly believe any barbershop or salon owner in their own community would be proud to serve their community. We are in a unique position and have an ear to the floor because so many families come into our space and share their lives. I am one of the Council Members that is really accessible. Constituents walk into the shop all the time."
BARBERING TODAY: What key issues or interests did you raise as a council member?
Quiñones: "When I first got elected into office I was excited to bring a new younger perspective for our city. I started to focus on three initiatives. Public safety, Youth and the LGBTQ+ population.
"After a few months in office, with the help of the rest of the City Council, I helped develop an Outreach Team called Programs Rehabilitation Outreach Services (the PROS team) to provide a better quality of life in any way in La Puente. The team actively works with our homeless to provide them resources and services they may need. They also work alongside our law enforcement for support. I also lead a program developed by the city to integrate local schools into our local government. This is a huge opportunity to connect with youth and students. It’s no surprise that the younger generation can be influenced for the worse in the streets, so I want to combat that with programs, events and activities the kids can positively get involved in.
"I am also very proud of my hometown actively working to create a safe space for the queer and trans community. For the longest time, this part of the San Gabriel Valley was a desert for services that supported the lgbtq+ population. This past June 2022, the City of La Puente held its first ever Pride. It was a success! We had so many non-profit organizations and service providers extend their reach of services to the lgbtq+ community. No political rhetoric, but just remember to vote because it does make a difference."