By Shanika P. Carter
“I think this is my ministry,” says Yancey Harris, owner of Fancy Yancey’s LLC, a staple of the Muskegon Heights community for over 17 years. He’s quick to say that he’s not a preacher, but he loves to talk to people and speak positivity in their lives. A people person, Harris knows how to deal with different personalities and has been a peacekeeper for as long as he can remember.
A class of 1991 graduate of Muskegon Heights Senior High School, where he earned the moniker “Fancy Yancey”, Harris initially had plans to attend college but it was the guidance and encouragement of Mr. Dewey Russ, his barber and respected teacher of Muskegon Heights, that helped him to reconsider his plans. Russ was instrumental in getting Harris enrolled into the Flint Institute of Barbering, where Harris put in 11 months and 2,000 hours of work, along with cutting hair on the weekends when he came home to Muskegon. Harris loved this way of utilizing his creativity and he was in popular demand every weekend he was in town.
Harris cut the heads of a few celebrities, including Melvin Riley of the group Ready for the World while he was still living in Flint, and multiple members of the DeBarge family once he moved back to Muskegon. A self-proclaimed “mama’s boy”, Harris moved back home to be closer to his mom, DeBorah Harris, who encouraged his ambition, saying that he had the ambition of a millionaire.
He started back working under Mr. Russ, as well as Mrs. Virginia Moore, who owned a barber shop and beauty salon, until he ended up taking on a factory job which left him with cutting heads after work in his basement. Harris’s time in the factory was short-lived, and he found that as a barber he could earn in one day what he was making in one week at the factory. From there, Harris went back into the shop, working under the leadership of stylist Kay Shabazz, until he opened Fancy Yancey’s. Once he started his own business and saw how successful he was, Harris says that he never wanted to work for anyone else.
Fancy Yancey’s only houses one barber, says Harris, who describes his preference to be the only barber as “being home alone”, but he has a staff of five, established and new individuals in the beauty industry, who specialize in different areas from eyelashes and eyebrows to braids. Shabazz, who Harris describes as a second mother, holds one of those five spots, coming in on occasion to style some of the older clients in the community.
Harris, who has been married to Michelle, a nail technician, for 18 years, says that keeping God in his life has helped him in all areas, including the success of his business; this has been particularly evident during the times of COVID and when he had to have a quadruple bypass four years ago. Harris says that during the 90 days he was out of work, his clientele stuck with him during that time, some even continuing to support the business financially while he recuperated. Harris associates this with displaying moral character, emphasized by taking care of people who in return will take care of you. “I appreciate that,” he says, reminiscing back on that time. “I try to treat people good because you never know when you might need people like that.”
The father of an 11-year-old daughter, Jaya, Harris describes his fatherhood experience as nice but “something”, adding that it is hard to tell her “no”. He says that he is very protective of his daughter, the same way he was with his younger sister, Taniekka, when they were growing up. Harris is close to his nephew, having watched him grow into a young man, and now he is watching the time fly with his daughter. “She loves her daddy, but she’s a mama’s girl cause daddy be at work all the time,” he says. Harris wants to focus on spending more time with his daughter, who he describes as very sweet, caring, creative, and talented with a big heart.
As far as other father figures in his own life, Harris praises the late Bishop Wells of Holy Trinity Church of God in Christ, his church home, as someone who helped to build boys into real men in the community. In addition, his uncles have also been a great influence in his life, including his uncle Pastor Ben Harris of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
As Harris looks ahead toward the future, he doesn’t see retirement as an option because he enjoys his job so much. He does foresee having a more laid-back schedule to spend more time with family while being debt-free, continuing to “minister” to those who he encounters, and sharing how barbering is a promising profession that allows one the ability to raise and take care of family while living the lifestyle they desire.
Fancy Yancey’s is located at 2754 Peck Street, Muskegon, MI 49444; 231-747-6466.