When Lance Wright opened the doors to his retro-style Whitefish Barbershop & Men’s Mercantile in October 2018, he soon realized he couldn’t sustain a one-man operation.
“There were days I was stacked up with men waiting from morning to night,” he said. “I’d give 30 haircuts a day sometimes.”
Since then he’s hired two professional barbers, Mick O’Day and Cam Mack, to help give haircuts, beard trims, mustache touch-ups and straight-razor shaves on a cash-only, walk-in basis. A fourth barber will join this month.
Wright’s mother, Jennifer Wright, works for a design company in Bigfork and helped him design the masculine space at 235 Baker Ave. with dark trim, black and white tile floors, and brass trim throughout. Lance Wright completed the look with four vintage barbershop chairs and two classic striped barbershop poles.
His wife, Danielle, is also part of the business, helping with the administrative side as well as managing a display of men’s grooming products.
“Where most barbershops are congested and small and you’re crammed in there, this is more open, spacious, clean and friendly,” he said. “We want guys to come in here, relax, enjoy, have good conversation, play pool if they want, get the talk of the town.”
Wright got an informal start in barbering, cutting hair for friends and others when he was a student at the University of Montana. After college he returned to the Flathead Valley, where he had lived for much of his life, but he was having trouble settling on a satisfying career.
“I had been in sales most of my life and wanted to do something I was more passionate about, something I wanted to wake up and go to work for instead of dreading it,” he said.
With no dedicated barber schools in Montana, Wright attended Mesa Barber School in Mesa, Arizona. He worked in barber shops in Phoenix and surrounding areas to hone his skills and learn the industry.
“It took about five years to get it up and going,” he said of the process of following through on his business plan. “I wanted to find the right location, working at other barbershops, perfecting the craft.”
The opening of the shop went “really well,” Wright said. “I was overwhelmed with how busy I was.”
Whitefish Barbershop has maintained a solid customer base with locals and tourists since, and though he had time to talk one recent quiet Tuesday afternoon, O’Day said the shop had taken care of 60 customers on the previous Tuesday.
A quick buzz cut is on the Whitefish Barbershop menu of choices, but the trio of barbers are trained to create any style a man wants. Giving a quality men’s haircut requires precision and a steady hand, O’Day said.
“It has to be perfect. No hair out of place,” O’Day said. “We’re following skeletal structure, giving them what their head wants.”
Current hair trends for men might take cues from the tapers and blends of older styles, O’Day said, but the more modern look is “a little edged up. The barber can tell the difference between the haircuts.”
Beard upkeep is an important part of today’s barbershop business and Wright has a notable beard of his own.
“Just having a beard means a lot of guys go straight to me,” he said. “I got a lot of experience in barber school with beard trims; some guys didn’t want to go to a guy without one.”
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/WhitefishBarbershop