Andrew Pye and Brett Kelly don’t want men to come into their newly opened barber shop in downtown Vernon for a mere haircut.
The owners/operators of the recently opened the Gentlemen’s Shop and Shave Parlour on 31st Avenue want it to be an experience for their customers.
“We’re not trying to get you in and out in 10 minutes,” said Pye, 28, in the new shop while Kelly worked on a customer. “We book 45 minute appointments, educate you about your hair and style your hair. We give you a first-rate experience.”
Pye and Kelly, 26, do all barbering services: haircuts, straight razor shaves and beard trims. They also carry beard balms, moustache waxes, everything you need to make the hair way you want.
A big part of the Gentlemen’s Shop and Shave Parlous experience is relishing in the old-time feel of the facility, what barbershops were once like.
There is the traditional red, white and blue barber pole, from the 1940s, outside the store.
There are two chairs to serve customers. One is a wooden chair from 1890, which is Kelly’s. Pye’s chair is from 1909.
The cash register is from 1912. Desks are at least 100 years old. There’s a mini museum featuring old clippers and old straight razors, some from the 1880s.
Both men wear long aprons with scissors in the pockets.
All music in the store is played on vinyl records on a turntable.
Photos of barbershops from around the world adorn the walls, including some of Pye’s own photos.
After a seven-year stint in the navy, Pye and his wife decided to take a year off and travel the world, all the while wondering what he was going to do when he returned to Canada.
“I would visit barbershops to get haircuts and shaves,” said Pye. “In Turkey, I was getting a shave and a haircut and I loved the whole experience, the place, atmosphere, the barber made me feel good.
“My wife joked why don’t I become a barber. I couldn’t get that out of my head. I visited barbershops in every country we went and it didn’t matter where we were, it was always the same experience.”
When the trip was over, Pye enrolled in a barber school in Salt Lake City. Upon graduation, he and his wife moved to the Okanagan and Pye found a job in a barber shop in Kelowna, which is where he met fellow barber fanatic Kelly.
“We were working together in a larger shop, and we discovered we had similar interests in what we wanted in barbering,” said Pye. “We wanted a modern place where men could could just be themselves and hangout, like old barbershops used to be. We like that classic feel.”
Kelly got into barbering through music.
A member of the rockabilly group The Dragstrip Devils – with sheet music from rockabilly legends Stray Cats’ mega-hit Stray Cat Strut tattooed on his body – Kelly went to a local barber for 22 years to have his cut in a rockabilly style, ie, slick-backed or in a pompadour.
“When we hit the road, salons couldn’t cut our hairs or we couldn’t afford it, so I started cutting the guys’ hair,” said Kelly. “It wasn’t that good at first, but I fell in love with barbering.”
Kelly and Pye officially opened their shop July 15, and Pye’s family surprised the pair with a grand opening gift – the gift of music in the form of a barbershop quartet out of Kelowna.
“My brother and my parents organized that together,” said Pye.
“They showed up and we were flabbergasted. We thought they were coming in for haircuts and shaves.”
It was a highlight for the quartet, The Century Project, as well.
The group’s lead/melody singer, Ian Rennie, is 93 and the quartet’s name comes from the fact they’re trying to help Rennie reach the age of 100.
All four – the group also includes tenor Ted Bajer, 77, baritone Dave Matheson, 72, and bass Dennis Gerace, 71 – had never sang in an actual barbershop before.
“We’ve all been singing for many years with different groups, and we’ve done skits with barbershops on stage, but never sang in a barbershop,” said Bajer. “We performed for about 40 minutes. It was wonderful.”
Reaction to the new shop, said Pye, has been, “amazing.”
“The word of mouth has been incredible and that’s what’s great about Vernon,” he said.
“We’re passionate about barbering, passionate about Vernon and have no intentions to move anywhere else.”