Business / Economy

San Juan Barbershop attracts customers from miles away

Owner and barber speak on closing down and reopening during the pandemic.

Correction: Benny Carrasco’s last name was previously spelled incorrectly.

How far would you be willing to drive for a great haircut? Russell Brown, who lives 100 miles away from San Juan Barbershop in Discovery Bay, finds the trip worthwhile.

“It is a great and responsive environment offering quality haircuts,” Brown said. “You go to other shops and they can be pretty loose. But these guys do a great job and they are ready for you when you come in. Since the pandemic, I have been very comfortable with going to these guys. I know they are following protocols to the T.”

The barbershop, located in the historic Bluebird Inn building at 401 Third Street across the street from the San Juan Bakery, has reopened now that restrictions on hair and beauty salons have been lifted—the second time the barbershop has had to rebuild their business from scratch.

Shortly after opening, the pandemic forced San Juan Barbershop to close. They reopened a few months later.

“Our first month back, we had to do the haircuts outside,” said Emmanuel Salcedo, a.k.a. Manny the Barber. “It was scorching, but were our clients still coming? Yes, they were still coming. We got more clients because of the pandemic. They were all hairy and looking for some kind of social interaction, so we probably got 30% more than before the shutdown.”

The resurrection was short-lived when, on Dec. 3, the state ordered all barber shops closed again. With restrictions lifted as of Jan. 25, the shop is again free to resume business. 

Emmanuel Salcedo a.k.a. Manny the Barber. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Emmanuel Salcedo a.k.a. Manny the Barber. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“We are living in some crazy times,” said Salcedo. “We have had customers calling; they have been growing their hair out or shaving it bald. When I announced we would be open again, I got a hundred messages from customers wanting to make appointments. I am really excited to get behind the chair again.”

Owner Benny Carrasco, who has run Town Plaza Barbers in Gilroy for the last 15 years, opened the San Juan Barbershop in October.

“I had been thinking about it for a while and sometime in June or July I decided to pull the trigger and get that started,” said Carrasco. “San Juan has always been on the radar with me. I grew up going to the mission and all the events they had. I’ve always loved it and I thought they could use a good, solid barbershop.”

Carrasco said he had several influences in his life that led to him being a barber. “My brother and my dad used to cut my hair and as I got older I just got drawn to it,” he said. “There is that whole barbershop vibe that is very attractive to me.”

With a trained staff willing to migrate to the new location, Carrasco found getting started to be easy.

“I have some awesome young talents that are up and coming,” Carrasco said. “They are driven and they are focused, ready to make names for themselves. I’m glad to have them on board and looking forward to seeing them grow.”

Salcedo is one of those talents and has been cutting hair since he was 12 years old. Now 24, he has worked for Carrasco for about six years.

“My uncle asked me to cut his hair for a party he was going to,” said Salcedo. “I had no idea what I was doing. Since I really tore up the haircut, I took the challenge upon myself to buy myself my first set of clippers. I started with my uncles, my dad, my nephews and my neighbors. Then I became the kid in high school cutting hair for the teachers, custodians, even the substitute teachers would ask.”

The uncle who suffered Salcedo’s first haircut attempt had known Carrasco since he was 10 years old and made the introduction for his nephew.

“I called Benny when I turned 18 and I asked him ‘what do you think?’” said Salcedo. “He said ‘yeah, come in and do a couple of haircuts.’ I think he must have seen something in me to give me a shot at the title and I have worked with him ever since.”

Today, with state restrictions in place allowing for indoor haircuts, Carrasco said nothing has really changed with the way they work.

Emmanuel Salcedo, Ashley Hooks and Tom Andrade. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Emmanuel Salcedo, Ashley Hooks and Tom Andrade. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“We are already a very sanitary business,” Carrasco said. “We always went beyond what was necessary, even to the point of cleaning everything in front of the customer so they could be confident that things were sterile and sanitary. So not much has needed to change, except wearing masks.”

That’s something customers notice—including Brown.

“They were doing a lot of high-level disinfecting before the pandemic started,” Brown said. “I always saw them recleaning everything as I waited for my appointment, even before it was mandated. Even now, I see people trying to get them to bend the rules and they refuse to do it. It gives you peace of mind.”

With the unsteady flow of customers and the handicap of most businesses in town being closed on Mondays, San Juan Barbershop is still getting its footing. Phoning ahead to (831) 313-5199 for appointments is recommended.

Carrasco is determined to make this shop successful. “Somebody once told me that the most successful people have grit. And I think we can say all of our people have that. I am looking forward to showing San Juan what we can do.”

Other related BenitoLink articles:

Hair stylists rally in Hollister

Personal care business owners discuss working outdoors

 

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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.