Steven Strother, who is affectionately known as Blaze, is opening a second location of All Star Line Up Barber Shop at 59 Orange St. Lucy Gellman Photos.
The first time Steven Strother did someone's hair, he was six years old and the face staring back in the mirror was his own. Three decades and one small business later. is back on his home turf and excited to serve the community that raised him.
Strother—or as he is affectionately known, Blaze—is the owner of All Star Line Up Barber Shop, opening this week at 59 Orange St. After years owning a storefront in West Haven, he is growing the business in New Haven’s Ninth Square neighborhood. Strother plans to soft open at the end of this week, and hold a formal opening June 11.
For the lifelong New Havener, it’s a homecoming.
“This was always my initial plan,” the 37-year-old said in a recent interview at the space, as builder Milton Moseley fastened a swiveling chair into place. “To come down here, and have a shop. I never gave up on that.”
Strother grew up in New Haven in the 1980s and 1990s, first in Fair Haven and then in the city’s Dixwell neighborhood. He became interested in hair when he was just six, after watching his parents and siblings experiment with different styles. As one of seven kids—he has three brothers and three sisters—he was able to practice on his siblings. He said that his brothers were always willing to let him tinker, as if they knew that one day he'd be doing it professionally.
Strother bought his own clippers when he was 11. By the time he was a teenager, he had fallen in love with the craft of doing hair. When he was 17, he apprenticed at New Haven’s then-bustling House of Stars Barbershop, then worked at different businesses until he could afford his own space. While it was always his plan to open in New Haven, he struggled to find a storefront that was affordable. In May 2018, he started a shared barbershop and salon in West Haven instead.
While he was there, he honed the distinct style for which he is known. He said he sees hair as an art form—even the most routine of fades and undercuts can become statement pieces with a spiralling, backwards C shape or hard edge that helps someone walk into an interview with their head held high. On a postcard that he’d been handing out to passers-by, he has photographs of customers still in their black smocks, heads tilted down.
One has thick, shiny curls exploding from a fresh fade. Another, a young boy who can’t be more than four, beams as he shows off a new cut. Strother said that behind their hairstyles is a story of the social space that he has created one town away, and now hopes to create in New Haven.
Milton Moseley, who watched Strother and his siblings grow up.
Even as his West Haven business grew, Strother never stopped looking in New Haven. He said he was particularly interested in storefronts downtown because the location is so central—all of the city’s buses roll through the neighborhood on their way to or from the New Haven Green. When he saw a storefront for rent, he called up Beacon Properties and made his pitch. He lives in the neighborhood, meaning his commute to work is now minutes.
“I’ve created a lot of relationships doing this,” he said. “A lot of kids grew up in my chair. This is a great place to flourish—a lot of people trust their barber.”
Strother plans to keep the West Haven shop, which also offers full-service salon options, open as he operates the Orange Street location. He is currently planning to have seven employees including himself. He said that the capacity of the shop is 14 people in total. Currently, chairs are spaced far enough apart that it feels airy, particularly when the door is open to Orange Street.
Inside, All Star Line Up is almost ready for business. Moseley, whose four kids grew up alongside Strother and his siblings and ran a construction company called Moseley & Sons for years, is doing the renovations. Around the space, sleek black sinks and swiveling chairs jut out from a long, shiny tile floor. A front counter greets people just beyond the entrance. A kitchen and bathroom sit in the back.
On a recent Monday, passers-by poked their heads in every so often to get a first look. On a television screen propped in front of a chair, a narrator spoke calmly about wildlife. Her even, smooth voice became the soundtrack to final construction.
“It’s amazing what God will do,” Moseley said as sunlight streamed through the front door and made the space glow. “Blaze is a great guy, and this will fit right into the area.”