Barbershop owner continues his business on his own

La Rumba was forced to shut down two separate times due to COVID-19 restrictions

Erwin Mejia, owner of La Rumba Barbershop

Erwin Mejia, owner of La Rumba Barbershop, stands in the doorway to his business. Photo by Katia Pechenkina/City Times Media

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Between a key shop and a fruteria sits La Rumba Barbershop on Highland Avenue.

Inside the barbershop, bachata music was blasting and the blue walls were decorated with Dominican Republic memorabilia and posters with the most popular fades, tapers and buzz cuts.

In the middle of the barbershop was the lone barber chair. In the corner, a handful of chairs sat open.

Erwin Mejia, the barbershop owner, was closed for most of the pandemic following state and local guidelines. 

But even without a single customer, Mejia continued to pay rent every month without any help from government loans or grants.

“The truth is, it has been a bit hard because I haven’t received any type of help from any officials,” Mejia said in Spanish, relaxing in his empty barber chair.

Read Juan M.‘s review of La Rumba Barber Shop on Yelp It wasn’t for a lack of interest. Mejia tried to apply for monetary business assistance but said he did not qualify for it.

He had the opportunity to open his business for about a month and half late last year. But after another surge of COVID-19 cases, he was told to close again.

His business is now open and he feels everything is almost back to normal.

The storm has passed,” he said. “If they give me help, good. If they don’t give it to me, I can’t do anything. Nothing changes for me anymore.”

This story is part of The Highland Avenue Project and the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowship program.