Photography by Danny Fulgencio
Bishop Barbers gave away 250 backpacks filled with school supplies and at least as many haircuts during its second back- to-school celebration in 2019. Liegea Lopez, who co-owns the shop with her husband, Marcus Santillan, came up with the idea because she was raised by a single mom. “My mom worked at Salvation Army on Harry Hines,” she says. “I just always saw her struggle all the time, and back-to-school was always a struggle.” Lopez grew up in the Oak Lawn area and went to North Dallas High School, Rusk Middle School and Maple Lawn Elementary, where she first met her husband. They were married five years ago and have seven kids from previous relationships. Santillan bought Bishop Barbers after a tragedy. The previous owner was murdered in 2013 at the hands of an employee he had just fired. “There wasn’t life at the barber shop after the killing,” she says. “We started to do community events, collecting blankets and beanies for the homeless, doing toy drives and asking the community to help with the back-to- school events.”

Lopez’s father was a barber, and she spent many Saturdays sweeping up hair as a kid. “My dad was murdered when I was 9,” she says. “Him being murdered always gave me motivation. I never took it as a negative thing. It was more of a positive thing.” Once she and her husband got together, after many years of friendship, they were practically inseparable. His business needed help, so she quit her job in a medical office to take on marketing and administrative duties. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they had just opened a second shop, Bishop Barber Babes, a couple of blocks away. They plan to give away 350 filled backpacks this year.

On Her Name

(she goes by Gea)

“My grandmother gave me an Egyptian name because she loved ancient Egyptian art and history. That’s why I have a cousin named Cleopatra. We call her Cleo.”

On Landmarks

Her favorite neighborhood hangout:

“I like to go to Ceviche [Oyster Bar] for a shrimp cocktail and a cucumber margarita.”

On Accomplishments

What they’ve accomplished through their shop:

“I’ve been able to utilize this barbershop and give back so much than I ever did before. Just being able to give back and help out has made me appreciate life so much. And whatever crazy idea I have, my husband always backs me up. I say, “OK we’re going to do free haircuts for officers,” and he just does it. He never questions it, even though he’s the one who has to do all the work.”

On Fears

What scares her:

“I don’t think anything could get scarier than COVID-19. We closed down for six weeks, without much of a savings. Every day you get up, and you just have to have faith in God that you’re going to make it.”

On Her Business

Misconceptions of her business:

“That it’s easy. It’s open to close, seven days a week. Before the whole COVID-19, my husband and I hadn’t taken a Saturday off for four years. We close at 9 p.m. We don’t get to take off on a Friday or Saturday. As a business owner, the minute you’re not there is when something happens. You just have to be there because anything can go wrong.”

On Advice

The best advice she’s received:

“Pick your battles. My husband tells me that all the time.”

On Influences

Her greatest influence:

“My mom. She was a single mom with two jobs trying to provide for her kids. She got up every day and worked hard for my sister and me.”

On Leadership

A strong leader is...

“…someone who can put their personal political views aside and still help other human beings. Have empathy towards other human beings and help them any way you possibly can.”

On Legacy

How would you like to be remembered?

“Being a strong person. Defending others when they don’t have the energy to fight back. Trying to find ways to help other people.”

On Worries

Her biggest worries:

“I worry about my kids’ future. It’s a scary time right now, and my kids are really worried about it. Nothing’s changing. Nothing’s improving. We keep going backwards.”

On Giving Back

How she would spend $1 million on the community:

“A really good friend of mine, Sylvia Collins, says that we need a senior citizens center in Oak Cliff, and I think we do need one. And we have moms that need clothes, groceries, babysitting. We could have seniors volunteer to help with childcare. A lot of moms need help like that. Growing up, my mom needed help like that.”