JEFFERSONVILLE — A Southern Indiana businessman with an eye for style has a new venture — one he hopes will showcase all the charm and amenities downtown Jeffersonville has to offer.

Marshall Pence, who’s owned The Barber Academy on Spring Street for going on 12 years, started work on the Villas on Spring — four second-floor units he describes as “inexpensive luxury” that can be rented for short or long-term stays — in early 2020.

It started as a way to provide dormitories for barber students; on average, 100 come through a year, many from out of town, as it is the only barber school in the southern part of the state. But Pence said the smartly decorated apartments, each spacious with high ceilings, natural light and its own theme, can also be a great stopping place for other travelers to the area.

Guests have access to electric bikes and a car service, and the Villas are just steps away from the Ohio River waterfront, quaint downtown shops and the Big 4 pedestrian bridge connecting Jeffersonville and Louisville.

“I think that’s the real selling point because you’ve got the bridge, the riverfront, the bars, the restaurants,” Pence said. “This is just like a piece of Heaven.”

Pence and his team put a lot of detail into designing each of the four rooms, which have their own vibe. For instance, Apartment Muhammad Ali focuses on the late famous boxer and features subtle colors and polished accessories to create an elegant setting. The geometric room down the hall is filled with jolts of bright, warm color, both energetic and comforting.

“I went in and redid everything, because I wanted people to pretty much feel like they’re at home, or better,” Pence said.

“We sat down and thought about a few basic things, like what did we want to make pop? If you go in every room, there’s something that brings everything together, that draws your attention.”

The one-bedroom rentals run $125 per night, with two-bedroom units costing $165 a night. For barber academy students who may live in other cities, the stay, if needed, is built into their tuition. Pence said the program takes about six or seven months to complete and requires some time in person at the Jeffersonville school, with other time spent engaging in long-distance learning and shadowing at shops in the students’ communities.

In the fall, Pence plans to open a cereal bar to the public, a space where guests can choose from chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream and top it with just about any kind of cereal they want. But while he knows the sweet treats will be a draw, he’s really excited about the interactive technology that will be available for kids in the shop.

The pictures they draw will come to life through animation technology, and the interactive sandbox will come alive through visuals projected onto the play area.

‘It’s flat sand but the projectors make it look like it’s rivers, valleys, and when you move the sand, you can see the little crabs,” he said.

The new businesses will also help The Barber Academy keep tuition low. Pence said that across the U.S., the average can range from $17,000 to $19,000, while his is just over $3,000.

The Academy also assists students through a second-chances program. Pence said this could be “people coming from prison [or] challenged areas. The urban kids, people that just want a change.”

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