Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cutting-edge nostalgia: A shave and a haircut...

Old-style barbershops popular again

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Dru Barrow (from left), Mason Melle and Kim Nguyen give Hunter & Gunn Barbershop owner Jeremy Regan a shave.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dru Barrow (from left), Mason Melle and Kim Nguyen give Hunter & Gunn Barbershop owner Jeremy Regan a shave. Photo Store

Your grandfather's barbershop is making a comeback.

Just a couple of decades after the rising popularity of high-end salons forced many old-school barbers to hang up their shears, the iconic red, white and blue pole is spinning once again.

Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop will open its first Winnipeg location next Thursday near the intersection of Kenaston and McGillivray boulevards.

Arlene Wyryha, its owner/operator and a 35-year veteran of the local hair industry, believes Winnipeg's demographics will support "five-star customer service."

Tommy Gun's has 10 barber chairs and one very non-traditional element you would never have seen at Ralph and Vic's Barbershop on Academy Road -- an entertainment area featuring five iPad stations, four big-screen TVs, a few arcade games and a bubble hockey game. "Looking at New York, Los Angeles and Montreal, I knew Winnipeg needed this. It was due, it was time to bring it here," she said.

Like the old days, you can't book an appointment, but unlike back then, when you walk in and provide your cellphone number or email address, Tommy Gun's will send you a message when your barber is ready.

"And when you sit in the chair, you'll be offered a remote control for the TV in each mirror," she said.

But the Alberta-based chain isn't blazing a new trail. Jeremy Regan, owner of Hunter & Gunn Barbershop, which opened up in the summer of 2012 in West Broadway, said the popularity of barbers has been growing in other cities on both sides of the border for a few years.

"Kids that are 20 to 25 years old are looking at how their grandparents dressed, how they wore their hair and had moustaches. It's a big trend among hipster kids to get a straight-razor shave," he said.

"It's cyclical. People harken back to this time that we immortalize as being better than where we are now. (Our shop) is small, it's quiet, there's a TV on and people are talking. There's a real barbershop feel to it."

Regan remembers the local barbershop as being the focal point of the neighbourhood, a meeting place to debate the news and sports of the day over a cup of coffee.

To fast-track its place in the community, Hunter & Gunn donates $1 from every haircut and product sold to a local non-profit charity. This year, the Grafitti Gallery, an inner-city community youth art centre, is the beneficiary, and next year it's going to be Resource Assistance for Youth, an agency working with "street-entrenched" and homeless youth.

Regan had been working at a high-end salon and thought the prices that were being charged to his customers were getting "ridiculous." A lot of salons, he believed, weren't coming through on the service side to justify those costs.

"We're trying to hit that 90 per cent of the market that nobody looks after, the $25 haircut. We can keep that low price point and high quality by offering booking online, we have low overhead and we have no bells and whistles. Everything is la carte. It's 50 cents for coffee and a blow-dry is $5," he said.

Berns & Black Salon & Spa was at the forefront of the barbering revival when it opened its Main Street location nearly five years ago. Its three barbers are regularly booked up six days a week doing haircuts and straight-razor shaves.

Owner Kitty Bernes knows a bit about the sector's history as barbering runs in her blood. Her great-grandfather, Anthony Bernes, ran a barbershop on Bannatyne Avenue more than a half-century ago.

"I've been in the hair industry for more than 20 years. I wanted to add a salon and a barbershop together. Most people when they hear 'salon' think it's just for girls. I wanted to have the two worlds converge and have a new genre," she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 B6

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