Barbershop owner sheltered dozens in shop during Buffalo blizzard

As a deadly winter storm descended over the holiday weekend, a business owner in upstate New York proved just how integral barbershops can be to the community.

Craig Elston, a barbershop owner in Buffalo, New York, missed Christmas with his family this year to potentially help save lives during the blizzard that hit the state just as the holiday weekend commenced. 

According to an interview with Business Insider, when the snow initially began to fall in Buffalo on Friday, Elston figured he and a few clients in his shop would be able to eventually leave. It wasn’t until someone knocked on his shop’s door, desperate for shelter, that he realized it might take more than a few hours to wait the storm out. 

Black Buffalo-based Barber, Buffalo storm,
(Photo credit: Getty Images / Merethe Svarstad Eeg / EyeEm)

From Friday to Monday, Elston ended up providing shelter to roughly 50 people in his Buffalo-based barbershop, with many sleeping in the shop’s chairs and on the floor, using capes as blankets. Those that sought shelter were either passing by in need of help or seeking refuge from nearby homes without power. Some, he said, came and went, using his shop to warm up and charge their phones, while others stayed through the entire weekend. In groups of four, they took turns going to a corner store about a mile away for food, drinks and snacks. 

Elston told Insider he was moved to spring into action after learning exactly how bad the storm was getting on social media. 

“I see people dead on Facebook. My first instinct is I got a building with heat and lights, like a lot of people don’t. Why not open my building up to the public? I genuinely just did it just so people would have somewhere to go,” he said. 

Elston put the word out about his barbershop-turned-storm-shelter through a video posted to Facebook Live and TikTok. In his video, he urged those in need in the area to seek him out and avoid staying in their cars. He also stressed that he was offering his shop up for free, unlike other nearby businesses that were charging.

His generosity made for a long and memorable holiday weekend. Elston told Insider he was exhausted by the time he finally got home on Tuesday. 

The storm that hit Buffalo and its surrounding county brought more than 50 inches of snow over the holiday weekend. At least 39 people have been reported dead in the region as stories keep unfolding. 

“This was a tragedy here. A lot of people that are not from Buffalo don’t understand how terrible the weather is. This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Elston said to Insider.  

Since Elston’s TikTok went viral, people have been calling the local business owner a “hero.” He told Insider he doesn’t consider himself a hero, just a man with resources he could afford to share. 

“I felt like at that time, it was what I was supposed to do. I’m sitting in a warm place, and I got lights, and people are without lights. People are without gas, people are without food, people are without drinks,” said Elston. “And I have all those things, and I have access to all those things. I’m not gonna be selfish.”