Early February 26, barber Anthony Gallegos, owner of AJ's All American Barbershop, woke up to a string of messages telling him that someone had broken into his business at 5268 West 48th Avenue.
Gallegos hurried over and found that his shop's door had been shattered and a rock chucked through the window where his logo was painted. Surveillance footage from an adjacent business, Things That Glow, showed four burglars breaking into the barbershop.
They took money from the cash register, several pairs of well-honed clippers and a PlayStation.
"It was really disturbing," Gallegos says. "We’ve been open for seven years, and nothing like this has ever happened."
Gallegos, who describes his business as "a pillar of the community," was honored by Mayor Michael Hancock for giving free haircuts to low-income children at the start of the school year. When he's not running the shop, Gallegos coaches children's football and baseball teams. "If there is any way I can get involved with helping people out, that’s something I’m willing to do," he says.
After years of scrimping and saving, Gallegos opened AJ's in 2012 without a bank loan, but with help from his best friend, his father and a former mail carrier turned Denver police officer.
From the start, Gallegos's barbershop was known as a friendly neighborhood spot, where about half of the customers are kids.
"We practice American barbering. We specialize in men’s hair cutting: tapering, blending, fading," he says. "We are about taking care of the neighborhood and the people. We’re just a place for regular people to come in and enjoy a haircut and a shave."
While he has insurance that will cover the stolen items, some things are tough to replace. One of his biggest losses: his prized clippers.
"It takes a few weeks and can even take months to really break clippers in," he explains. "The ones that I do for hair designs, those had a lot of value for me. I had a pair that I had for two years that I loved. Those are gone."
Gallegos's reputation as an innovative barber serving a diverse clientele and his generosity and commitment to the community were the reasons that Westword recruited him to be the official barbershop at Artopia 2019.
And despite the burglary, Gallegos will still be at The Church on Friday, March 1, setting up an old-fashioned barbershop, complete with a barber's pole and classic Belmont barber chairs, and offering haircuts to VIPs at Artopia.
The burglary is currently under investigation. The Denver Police Department is requesting that people with information about the crime call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.
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In the meantime, Gallegos is leaning on his family, fiancée and co-workers for support; his father has offered him some sage advice.
"Sometimes life just throws you curveballs, and you’ve got to keep moving," he says. "You’ve got to move forward and learn something from this and take something positive from this."
And that's what Gallegos is all about.
Meet Anthony Gallegos and his crew when Artopia 2019 celebrates decades of hip-hop culture on Friday, March 1, at The Church, 1160 Lincoln Street. Find the complete lineup of artists and performers, as well as ticket information, at westwordartopia.com.