Olive-tinted leather chairs with built-in ashtrays. Clippers and a scalp massager. Even a wooden rack adorned with all the magazines you’d expect to find at your dad’s barber shop.
The place isn’t a postcard from a classic Norman Rockwell depiction of Americana. It’s Canyon Country Barber Shop, the longest running men’s establishment in the eastern vicinity of the Santa Clarita Valley, and it celebrated its 50th anniversary June 10.
Throughout the decades, the neighborhood around the business has grown and changed. Owner Bob Ruiz, 76, can recall when the paved sidewalks just outside the Soledad Canyon Road shop were nothing but dirt pathways.
Plenty has changed outside, but not much has within the walls of the barbershop. Two decades ago, Ruiz said he had no plans to retire, and that sentiment still stands.
“A lot has changed, but life is still good. Little by little, the knees went out, hip went out, the hearing went out, but the clippers still work,” he said with a smile. “Age caught up with me, but I don’t plan on stopping.”
The longtime Piru resident and barber with a thick, salt-and-pepper pompadour and goatee, has only slowed down by reducing his work days to three per week. But he’s not alone. Ruiz’s staff consists of his youngest daughter, Anita, who has been in the business since 1990, and Simon Sarafyan and Demetrius Jackson.
“They do it originally here, razors, combs, massagers,” said Jackson, regarding why he joined the team six years ago. From using wielding scissors to finishing each haircut with a scalp massage, the techniques and tools Ruiz has used since opening the business in 1969 remain unchanged.
“They don’t even teach this (using an electric massager) at barber school anymore,” said Ruiz. “The hairstyles of course go and come back. During the ‘70s and ‘80s when the long hair was in, business slowed down a little. Then the skin type really got famous and the guys were coming in every week to keep the sides clean. That’s when we started a minimum service.”
“Prices have (changed), of course. When we opened we were getting $3,” he added. Today, an average cut at Ruiz’s shop averages around $19.
Originality and tradition are what has kept generations coming back.
Since he was 9 years old, stopping by with his father, to now a father himself, Perry Mathews has always asked for a flat top cut from Ruiz. “I’ll let (my hair) grow and put a hat on if I have to before going to anyone else,” he said. “It’s a family spot, like when you find a good restaurant or a nice place to hang out; you’re welcomed and they know your name and kinda how you like it done.”
And he’s not the only one who considers the barbershop a go-to. Councilman Bob Kellar is a regular, stopping by since his days with the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1960s. Generations of the McKeon family, including former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, have also stopped by over the years.
Besides known for giving quality haircuts, Canyon Country Barber Shop has established itself as a longtime sponsor of the Canyon Country High School Cowboys football team, as well for Golden Valley High School.
“Canyon opened in 1968, a year before we opened, and we’ve been sponsoring them ever since,” said Ruiz. “It’s a nice way to help the kids out and they help me.”
It’s been a good 50 years overall, Ruiz said. While the shop’s barbers and customers expect him to see him stick around longer, Anita said she can’t help but think about what will happen when he does decide to retire.
“Bob’s a staple,” she said. “If and when he does take off, he’ll lose customers just because of him being a staple. Everyone’s going to come in and ask, ‘Where’s your dad? How’s your dad?’ What happens when he’s not OK? I don’t want to be here for that.”
Despite working in the hair industry for more than two decades, Anita said she would not like to take on the business in the future. “I don’t like the job, I’m just a daddy’s girl,” she said laughing.
The future is unknown, but one thing for sure is that Canyon Country Barber Shop barbers show no signs of defeat.
The shop is located at 18234 1/2 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country. The location is open Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.