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Barber Shops Are Booming in Sonoma County

In case you haven't noticed, beards are back. Together with new grooming trends, they are fueling a barber shop renaissance.

The lone upholstered chair at the Plaza Barber Shop on Center Street in Healdsburg was occupied by a regular named Larry, who was probably exaggerating when he complained that his eyebrows were so overgrown they were interfering with his backswing.

Steve DuBois, the proprietor, trimmed the bramble-like brows of Larry while explaining to a visitor why barber shops across the republic are experiencing a boom. “Beards are back. Men’s grooming, and grooming products, have just become part of the culture. I mean, guys are getting their ears waxed.”

“I didn’t know you did ear waxing,” remarked a wiseacre waiting his turn in one of the shop’s vintage Candlestick Park folding chairs. (DuBois doesn’t. Yet.)

With their memorabilia, lather machines, and Rockwellian poles, barber shops offer both nostalgia and a hipness factor best described as “lumbersexual.” That’s helped drive a tonsorial renaissance evident around the county, but especially in Healdsburg, which supports not one, but two thriving one-chair shops.

At his eponymous operation on Healdsburg Avenue, Erik Wagner has been cutting hair for 17 years. Four years ago, he switched to an appointments-only model, giving him more control over his schedule, and allowing him “to see more of my kids’ games.”

Barbering, he notes, has provided him with more than a mere livelihood. “If I just had a desk job somewhere, I wouldn’t have the relationships that I have. I wouldn’t be so close to the community.”

Nodding in agreement was 30-something Joseph, whose neckline Wagner was cleaning up with a straight razor. He’d nodded earlier, upon first settling into the chair, when Wagner posed the eternal barber’s question: “The usual?”

Plaza Barber Shop, 319 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-433-9833, plazabarberhealdsburg.com; Erik’s Barber Shop, 433 Healdsburg Ave., #A, 707-433-7466

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