New owner plans to keep nostalgic feel of Clip Joint

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  • Brittney Smith is the new owner of the Clip Joint. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

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    The 72-year-old Clip Joint has a new owner in Brittney Smith. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

  • Brittney Smith is the new owner of the Clip Joint. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 1

    The 72-year-old Clip Joint has a new owner in Brittney Smith. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

For the last five years, the Clip Joint has been Brittney Smith’s home.

The job doesn’t feel like a job, she says, and the people who come in don’t feel like customers.

“They don’t even feel like clients, they’re family and friends and if anybody is down, we all lift each other up,” Smith says. “It doesn’t feel like a business relationship in a sense. We all care about each other. That probably is what sets us apart, we’re more like a family than a business.”

Smith is the newest owner of the 72-year-old Clip Joint on Second Street downtown. The shop will be hosting a grand opening party on June 1 at 2 p.m., featuring pizza and beer from Montana Tap House.

Smith remembers coming in to interview with the prior owner, Melissa Franklin, five years ago. She loved the vibe of the Clip Joint, and was even mistaken for an employee before her interview began. She got the job and started the very next day.

“It just felt like I was meant to be there. It’s corny but it’s true,” she says. “It was just old school. I loved the nostalgia of it.”

The shop was initially Herb’s Barbershop, started by Herb Knuth in 1947.

Originally from Anchorage, Alaska — among other locations — Smith has known Whitefish for most of her life, having stopped by when she’d visit her family in Eureka. It’s fun to look back at old Whitefish and compare it to the town it is now, she says.

“I remember coming to Whitefish and all the old stuff. The gas station around the corner, the mural and all that stuff. It’s been crazy to see Whitefish grow and change,” Smith says.

Clip Joint’s old-school feel will continue on, though she will be making a few minor adjustments to make the shop feel more open. The shop will get new wood floors, and the old cabinets have been replaced by canvases depicting straight razors.

To help with the wait time, especially in the summer, they’ll be offering coffee, water and beer and whiskey tastings as well.

And next summer, Smith plans on getting her straight razor license and adding that service to customers looking for the closest shave they can get.

The biggest suggestion she’s heard from longtime customers is not to lose the unique feel of the Clip Joint.

“The one thing I love about the Clip Joint is it’s a true, old school barbershop where you come in and talk and get to know people, and you hear about what’s going on in town and you truly care about how people are doing,” she said. “It’s the one place where there’s no social media distraction.”

In a day and age where smartphones are ubiquitous and notifications endlessly buzz throughout the day, Smith says it’s special to have a space that’s just personal.

“I feel like that’s what’s lacking nowadays, people don’t know how to communicate and talk. Their faces are in their phones, and you don’t call people anymore, you text,” she said. “So it’s nice to have communication with people, that’s probably my favorite part of Clip Joint.”

Prior to buying the shop, Smith had considered moving to Canada with her son, Roman. She’d grown up moving often, attending 13 different schools along the way, so adopting a new zip code wasn’t out of the ordinary for her.

But something was different this time she said, and she knew she had to plant her roots in Whitefish.

“I couldn’t do it. I finally realized there’s no better place than Whitefish and I don’t want to live anywhere else. This business has been here for 72 years now, it doesn’t get better than that,” she said. “I felt like if I moved, I would always look for a Clip Joint. And there is no other Clip Joint.”

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