For those who look around and say, ‘there’s nothing to do here,’ there is a choice. For Aaron Gonzalez, the decision was easy – make something! The 24-year-old owner of Aaron’s Barbershop, Don Dinero Promotion’s, and co-owner of The Don’$ Sports Bar & Grill determined early on that rather than complain about something, he had the power to make it happen.
A Siouxland native, Aaron says he always had a business mindset. “I liked to sell things as a kid. Fundraisers for soccer or whatever really got me excited.” And he recognized watching his family operate businesses, also influenced him to realize that you can reap rewards. His grandfather had a couple businesses in Mexico before moving to California to become a cook. When the family relocated to Siouxland, Aaron’s father and sisters opened Mi Familia restaurant and the whole family worked. “I remember not wanting to go to school at times. My dad would say, ok you do not want to go to school, then you are going to work. After working hard washing dishes and getting a tiny paycheck, I was motivated to go back to school!” said Aaron.
He continued to state that school was a challenge for him, because he had big visions and school was slow. As a result, he graduated early and put all his attention into his professional pursuits as a barber. He had begun cutting hair for others in 7th grade. “I’m not really supposed to say, but I was cutting hair and running a business at 13 years old,” said Gonzalez. “I watched YouTube all the time to learn new techniques. I’d ask others how to do something if I didn’t know. I have never been afraid of failure. You only fail if you don’t put in the effort.”
In 2013, Gonzalez moved to Lincoln and enrolled in Barber School. The 2,100 hours of required time, seemed an eternity to the young man who had already been doing the techniques being taught for a couple years. “It was hard for me to finish school. I just already knew that stuff, it was frustrating to have to put in so much time. I pushed to help others and now the requirement is down to 1,800 hours,” he said.
He officially opened Aaron’s Barbershop in South Sioux City on February 9, 2017, at 19 years old. “That was my goal, to do it before I turned 20,” Aaron explained. “I have books of goals I’ve written down through the years. I focus on the one right in front of me until it happens, then I’ll go back and look to see what else I set as a goal for myself.”
At the ripe old age of 21, Gonzalez started to look for the next thing. He had been cutting hair for almost a decade and was good at it. He remembered in high school he identified a need for a sports bar and grill in South Sioux City and decided now was the time to make it happen. “You know something is what you need to pursue when it is always on your mind,” Aaron explained. “This thought was on me for over a year. I spent time researching what I needed to do, looking for resources and a location. Then one night about midnight, it became clear that it should be called The Don’$ to honor my grandfather.” Gonzalez’s grandfather had died about a year earlier. Everyone in the family referred to him as The Don – a sign of respect for the family patriarch.
“Once I had the name, it was almost like I heard my grandfather say, ‘do it,’ and things started to fall into place. I spent most of the night sketching a logo, a couple months later a location became available. The vision really came together,” said Gonzalez.
The Don’$ Sports Bar & Grill grand opening was November 17, 2018. Close family friend Pablo Cisneros and Aaron’s father, Lupe Gonzalez, are partners in the business. “Dad helps with the day to day,” Aaron stated. “He knows the restaurant business. But we all help. I would not have done this with anyone else. Pablo, his wife, my dad and his sisters, my siblings are people I trust, and we all work in the business. It is truly a family endeavor.” The business is a popular location and has recently remodeled the dance floor. Aaron has visions for further expansion as well, which aligns well with his other business of a promotions company.
“I have always been the party planner,” he said. “Now I learned I can get paid to do it!” Don Dinero Promotions coordinates events, parties, and other entertainment. “I got to coordinate parties for Saturday in the Park artist Waka Flocka Flame this year,” Aaron said with pride. He has plans to bring more artists and concerts to the city to make sure there are ways to have fun here. While he builds the sports bar and entertainment businesses, Gonzalez says cutting hair is his safety net. He now has 6 barbers at his shop and recently opened a salon next door with three beauticians providing services as well.
When asked why he has made Siouxland his home Aaron explained, “I used to say I hated it here, I was going to move to California. But my family is here, and I want to be close to them. Plus, California would have just been about having fun, not building for the future. I am 24 now and I have a son, it is not just about me. Family is important to me; I make sure I have two weeks each year to go on a trip with my family. I probably couldn’t do that if I worked for someone else.”
The advice that Aaron offers other young people is from his mother, “she always said, the lazy person always works double. She will probably laugh when she reads that. I did not always like it, but she was right. If I were lazy and did something kind of right, I would have to do it again and do it right. My advice is stay focused, listen to yourself, and work hard. Happiness is not about where you are, it’s about what you are doing. If you are not working to elevate yourself and those around you, in 10 years it will all just be the same. Don’t complain – do something.”