People often pay a pretty penny to get their hair cut at Guadalupe Chavarria‘s salons. For example, prices at Studio Chavarria, his downtown-Asheville location, run from $30 for a men’s haircut to $600 for a Japanese-style “thermal straightening,” which is mostly for women clients.
Now, however, Chavarria is marking down his services, at least in his newest enterprise. The Westside Barbershop, slated to open mid-March in West Asheville, will be both stylish and cheap, he pledges. “It’s kind of like the old-school barbershop matched with hip, urban style,” he says. “You can get a shoeshine, a taper cut and a good shave. Anything that has anything to do with clippers, we’ll be doing it—Mohawks, whatever. And it’s $20 a pop for everything.” (Clients 65 and older will pay $15, he notes.)
Chavarria, 35, co-owns the shop with Charlie Rosenstein, 28, an Asheville native who runs Land Expressions, a landscape design/installation company, among other concerns. If Westside works out, they plan to franchise their retro-barbershop brand up and down the East Coast.
It’s the kind of gambit that seems to come naturally to Chavarria, who moved here from south Texas 10 years ago after making his name as a nationally recognized stylist who was starting to traipse around the world before he settled in Asheville. His expanding entrepreneurial footprint here includes Studio Chavarria on Walnut Street, now 7 years old; Studio Chavarria South in Arden, opened nine months ago; the downtown restaurant Vigné, which he started with a partner last fall; and a slew of rental properties. And if that weren’t enough to keep Chavarria busy, he also serves on the Asheville Downtown Commission and the UNC Asheville Foundation board.
No matter how much Chavarria diversifies, he says, aesthetics still come first—but commerce can run a close and necessary second. “If I was just an artist and didn’t have the business sense, then there’s no way in hell I would have made it,” he says. Xpress asked him why and how he’s carved out his niche in Asheville.
Mountain Xpress: You’ve already got plenty of endeavors under way. Why start this barbershop?
Guadalupe Chavarria: The main reason I wanted to do it in the first place is that my father has been a barber for over 35 years, and my brother has been a barber for over 14 years. I’ve always wanted to be a barber. I have that training, because I worked with my dad starting out, and now, of course, I’m a cosmetologist. But working at the barbershop was always a good vibe.
It seems a pretty big departure from your usual clientele, which is mostly female.
I love working on women’s hair, and it is high-end. But a lot of men don’t want to pay $40, $50 a cut.
And now, you really see the true barbershop dying out. A lot of barbers are in their 60s and 70s, and they’re aging out of it—and it’s a shame. We want to keep the integrity of the barbershop. It’s a lost art: You’ll never learn how to do it unless you train with someone who’s been a barber. I was fortunate to work with my dad.
And you can be a woman [client]—we don’t care. A lot of women have really short haircuts now, and they can go in there and it’s the same amount. We’re not discriminating against long hair or short hair. If you come in with hair down to your back—man or woman—we’re probably going to charge you $30 for that, but we’ll do it.
As someone who runs several downtown businesses and properties, along with serving on the Downtown Commission, what do you think downtown Asheville is most lacking?
We definitely need some more parking on the south slope, and parking on Coxe Avenue. And more lighting in various areas, given all the urban developments and people’s need to be able to walk around safely. … It would also be nice to see the downtown have a lot more directions, signage and maybe a few kiosks where you can go and see where you are and what establishments are nearby. That would be a simple solution to a major problem.
What do you say to folks who complain that Asheville’s getting too expensive for artists and working folks to live here?
There is a lot of new money coming to Asheville, and I wish we had a package for them, to say, “Look, here are 50 local artists, 50 local metalworkers, 50 local green-building companies, and we’d like for you to integrate them into your big hotel or whatever project.” I mean, we could fill up hotels with local art and switch it out every six months. I think the big developers need to be encouraged to not just take from the community but to give us something back, and that’s something that’s not talked about enough.
What do you do when you’re not working? Any hobbies, something that takes you away?
I’m constantly working on creating something. I mean, it’s hard for me to even sit in my own house and not try to make everything around me feel perfect or more aesthetically pleasing. I’ll re-curate; I’ll redo my closet. I have a hard time sleeping, and I have a hard time not being creative all the time. A social life is pretty important to me, but that’s part of trying to create things, by talking to people about various projects.
How do you keep expanding your portfolio of projects when your plate is so full already?
It is. But once you have great people working for you, people who have the same goals and understand your vision, it becomes easier and easier, because then you can move on to another project knowing that you’re backed up. It gets easier and easier, too, because the formula becomes clearer each time.
Westside Barbershop will be at located at 755 Haywood Road, in the space formerly occupied by Kelly’s Barber and Style shop. Call 505-4625 for more information.