A new barbershop with old school style opened downtown last fall, and customers have been lining up for a haircut and shave ever since.
Lance Wright opened the Whitefish Barbershop and Men’s Mercantile on Baker Avenue near Second Street. The shop, with its black and white tile floor and 1920s barbershop chairs, speaks of a different era, but the large TV screens positioned across from a full wall of mirrors show modern sports while customers wait.
Creating the right atmosphere was a primary goal for Wright, next to providing quality haircuts.
“The general response we’ve gotten is, ‘That was the best haircut of my life,’” he said. “We wanted to create a place where guys would want to come hang out, shoot some pool and chat.”
Since business has boomed Wright brought on two fellow barbers — Mick O’Day and Cam Mack — who both say they are behind the mission to create that classic barbershop feeling in a modern shop.
“It has a social feeling that old school barbershop camaraderie,” O’Day said. “It feels like a barbershop in a cowboy movie, but it goes beyond that. A good haircut can solve a lot of problems and we send them out with a smile.”
The shop offers haircuts, full straight razer shaves and beard or mustache trims. Customers are taken on a first-come first serve basis and it’s cash-only. Customers are from youngsters to teenagers and senior citizens.
“We don’t just do crew cuts and flattops. We know the new styles and we’re current with the times,” O’Day said.
They’re already seeing word of mouth along with Whitefish’s popularity as a tourist destination bring in new customers from all over the world. Large picture windows along the edge of the shop create a view straight into the shop inviting in those looking for services, and each time a new customer walks in the door, they’re greeted like a friend.
“The end goal for a barber is to be in a place like this,” Mack said. “This chemistry and environment is so much fun to be around.”
“It never feels like work,” Wright adds. “I feel grateful that I’m here every day.”
Wright got started cutting hair as a student at the University of Montana, giving his friends a quick trim before heading out for the weekend. He worked other jobs but eventually went to barber school and began working at different shops picking up different techniques along the way.
“It’s a craft — an art,” he said. “You pick up pieces everywhere you go.”
For O’Day, barbering is a second career of sorts. He worked as a welder, a truck driver and as an artist, but cutting hair was a hobby until he recently completed barber school and drove straight to Whitefish to begin working for Wright.
“I’m a metal sculpture artist,” O’Day said. “This is just another medium for me. I love it. I was born to do it.”
The mercantile portion of the business is managed by Wright’s wife Danielle and is focused on “men’s goods” like cigars, leather goods, beard balm, beer glasses, candles, blankets, hearty soups, and more. Many of the items are sourced from artisan shops.
“That part is growing as we evolve,” Wright explains. “It’s anything guys want and anything we’re passionate about.”
“It includes the hair and skin products,” adds O’Day. “We have years of experience in the handsome industry.”
The Whitefish Barbershop is open Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 890-1209 or visit the shop’s Facebook page.