With a location on every block, chains pose a threat to locally owned businesses with their cheap prices and accessibility. But barbershop owners in Bakersfield are not afraid of chains putting them out of business because they are confident that customers will keep coming back for a unique, noncookie-cutter experience that they cannot get anywhere else.
Chains can be great when you need something inexpensive and fast to hold you over, but do not expect a personalized service from a company that wants to make a quick buck. Local barbershops in Bakersfield are distancing themselves from chains with their personable and welcoming environment that treats customers like they are important.
While chains might see their customers as just another number, Rita Barraza, co-owner of Vintage Cutz, treats her clients as if they were her family. She does not limit her interactions with clients outside of the shop to just a nod and wave; she sets time aside to spend quality time with them.
“There’s a lot of them that I’ll see, mostly at the (Kern County Fair), and we’ll hang out. Sometimes we’ll go to dinner,” she said.
Unlike chains, these shops go the extra mile and make an effort to get to know their clients to make them feel special and listened to.
“I remember what my clients are into so when the golfers come in, we talk golf and when the racers come in we talk racing,” said Mallory Torrigiani, owner of A Cut in Time, a north Bakersfield barbershop featuring all female barbers.
These shops are doing more than providing a simple service. They are building a special relationship that will last a lifetime. Torrigiani still has clients from her first week at the shop and has kept in touch with people who have since moved on.
“I have clients that move out of state and when they’re in town, they make a point to come and see us and get a haircut or just say hi,” she said.
For over six years, Frankie Cabe has made it a point to see his barber, Pete Hernandez at Vintage Cutz, every week to get his hair and beard trimmed.
If human connection is not a selling point, these shops also offer expertise that employees at chains do not have.
According to Salvador Carrillo, the owner of Blended, chains are just there to get you in and out. He believes that his barber’s qualifications are what sets them apart from everybody else.
“I got barbers, classic barbers that provide full service to men. These guys, they provide services that aren’t taught to a lot of people that (cut hair at chains). A lot of them don’t go through barber college, they go through like cosmetology school and they end up cutting at like a Sports Clips. So we take a little bit more pride into what we do, ” he said.
Torrigiani thinks it is imperative to continue evolving with the industry. She is often looking for opportunities to improve.
“I like to go to a trade show,” she said. “I take all the girls, we all go and we take educational classes. I’ve had other barbers come in, I’d say fairly famous barbers, and do little demos.”
New chains will not stop popping up but all these shops can do is continue providing a great service with an ambiance and environment that you cannot find anywhere else.
Carrillo is not afraid of chains or competition of any kind. He knows he has something special that separates him from everybody else.
“I felt like I could provide satisfaction as far as hair, style, look and comfort that no one else could provide,” he said.
Torrigiani knows she could expand and grow bigger but the community atmosphere she has created in her small shop has charm that is unmatched.
“There’s so many barbershops in town now and you can get a little bit of everything with each one of them, but we kind of like to stay that small, kind of hometown feel. When they walk in, we remember their name and I think that makes a difference,” she said.