La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Small-Town Businesses"
Barber Shop Rockwell Visions
by Nune Gazdhyan
photography by Alen Zilic
Dan Perea, stylist, and David Voors, client, are key players in the small
town ritual at Fred's Barber Shop in La Verne. While the haircut may be
the up-front reason for going to the shop, the conversation is the key element
that brings customers back.
Hair today, gone tomorrow. Snip, snip, snip are the continuous sounds
accompanying Jay Wright, barber/stylist, as she sets free strands of hair
Sandwiched between two buildings is Fred's Barber Shop, located in Old
Town La Verne. The lazy spinning of the barber pole mounted by the entrance
and the sun rays entertaining through the window create a classic picture
painted by Norman Rockwell, the famous artist, but this is one place that
is not a mirage. "Don't blink, or you'll drive right past us,"
Playing to the Chamber of Commerce's Old Town theme, this classic barber
shop, owned by Frank Ayala, a devoted believer in making people happy and
keeping them connected with the past, fits right in.
"We're still waiting for Andy and Barney to come in from Mayberry,"
The shop does have a movie-like quality to it. With the antiquity of
the building and the town, it seems to be a perfect place to make old-fashioned
movies, yet, once inside, the past and the present mingle.
There are rows of random pictures decking the walls, depicting a gallery
not yet organized. There are pictures of barber shops and flowers placed
like missing puzzle pieces in a collage. Included are fruit crate labels
-- prominently displayed in the shop. "The pictures just portray some
of the things that the owner, Fred Ayala, likes," says Wright.
While keeping true to portraying the past and servicing males, this
shop has made one big modification and turned into an inviting place for
both sexes: it offers both male and female hair stylists. Yet, from the
looks of it, one can tell that this tiny relic of the past is still dominated
by men who are looking for a good old-fashioned place where they can trust
their hair-do to the barber's imagination, while having a good conversation.
"I love it here, I love the town, and I enjoy watching my clients
leave the shop with a smile," says Dan Perea, barber/hair stylist.
At Fred's Barber shop, there is still a special bond with the barber
and the clients. The barbers are devoted to their art of molding great hair
styles, giving out sweets and occasionally healing the souls of their clients
with prayers. Wright, being a devout Christian, promises to pray for her
clients' after finding out that there are difficulties in their lives. She
also gives many encouraging words and advice to her clients.
The encouraging words and the satisfied customers spread the word of
this shop, attracting new clients and keeping many old ones.
"They know how to cut my hair, and Dan's conversation is entertaining,"
says Daren Ruskin, a client for three years.
He drives all the way from Fontana to La Verne in order to get his hair
Ruskin is not alone; while the shop serves the community, it also receives
many clients from many surrounding cities such as San Dimas, Pomona and
Upland. The key to their many clients is their "good old-fashioned
atmosphere," according to Wright.
This is a place for more than cutting hair; it's a place of gathering,
a place to be entertained, and a place to share feelings and get advice
on everything, from fixing a car to making pot roast. "You can come
here for a hair cut, but you'll leave here with a glimpse of the past,"
Once a bank vault used to store money and jewels, the building has been
a La Verne treasure for years, eventually transforming to a place that the
elderly can get away to recollect the past while the young gain the opportunity
to step into the past.
A barber shop had a greater meaning in the old west. It was more than
a place to "hang out"; it was also the local dentistry and the
clinic. A foot operation and a decayed tooth were twin maladies that were
treated by the old fashioned barber.
Today, shops like Fred's retain some of the restorative qualities of
the past. This shop in particular has become an attraction frequented by
"old timers," as well as by well-known members of the community.
"Most of the Councilmen come here for haircuts," says La Verne
Councilman Dan Harden. He has been a faithful customer of the shop since
There are not many places left in today's society where individuals
can get away and connect with the past. There is also a lack of "true"
barber shops where men can go to assemble. They have been replaced by beauty
salons and hair styling shops.
"I feel good knowing that I am giving someone more than just a
haircut. By working here, I am able to help them connect with old memories
while they get a new look," says Perea.
Most men, especially ones used to the atmosphere of barber shops, cringe
at the thought of having to go to a beauty salon or a hair stylist to get
their hair cut. Breaking the rules of a fast-paced society, this is one
place where people and things slow down, and the sun seems to take longer
to set, allowing time for bonding and laughter, triggered by the devotion
of a tiny barber shop refusing to speed up its pace.
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