Our Town: Game Plan: Mr. GroomRoom

Madeline Gray

“What you did doesn’t justify who you are.”

William Winters, owner, Mr. GroomRoom

A few years ago, William Winters might not have imagined he’d be employed, much less a local entrepreneur. A few milestones later – namely, overcoming addiction and living sober – he’s giving back to the community through a simple act: the haircut.

Born and raised in Raleigh, Winters had a brief stint on the basketball team at North Carolina Central University as well as in the United States Navy. Along the way, he says, he experienced homelessness and suffered from addiction. After a few years on the streets and encounters with the law, “I finally looked in the mirror and had to snap back to reality,” says Winters. He went to a rehabilitation center a decade ago and has been sober ever since.

With his feet back on the ground, two years ago Winters opened his own business, a barber shop called Mr. GroomRoom. It began as a one-man-show on Wake Forest Road. Business was good, and within a year, he expanded and moved to his current location just off of New Bern Avenue. Today, his shop is right across the street from the ABC store. Winters says the proximity underlines his full-circle journey: “I slept under the tree over there for two years.”

Winters says he hopes to expand his space in the coming year; and while he continues to grow his team and business, he hasn’t forgotten his path and always strives to give back. Every Sunday, he says, he opens the shop to give free haircuts to the homeless. “I know what it feels like to get a haircut when you’re in that situation. It gives you a sense of confidence.”

That same confidence has paid off for Winters. He’s one of the newest recipients of The Sports Shop radio’s Salute to Champions, along with community members like former Durham mayor Bill Bell. He’s also just been recognized as a 2018 honoree at the Celebrating Life Jazz Brunch in Greensboro, which acknowledges folks who have overcome challenges. While his latest activities have included receiving accolades for his transformation and community work, he says he really likes his day-in-day-out priority: “I just like to cut hair.”   –Catherine Currin