50 years a quiet triumph for Stag Barbershop’s Bob Martin
Photo courtesy Tony Henry
Bob Martin, 77, is surprised by a golden anniversary party Tuesday, Feb. 19 at his shop. The party brought in a number of his regular customers to celebrate.
SNOHOMISH — At Stag Barbershop, Bob Martin leads the orchestra of buzzing razors and lively conversation with faithful customers waiting for their cuts.
He’s got a good ear, but a better hand after 50 years in the business of making men look their best.
Inside, a taxidermied menagerie of bear and bobcat, foxes and ducks cover the walls.
From the welcoming scent of lotion and shaving cream to the rounds of ammo on the walls, every well-worn inch of the place says “make yourself comfortable, you’re among friends.”
Glowing neon signs outside beckon to male customers, and a few ladies. Some are the grandchildren of Martin’s original clients. He opened in 1969 as the first tenant of the Snohomish Square shopping plaza on Avenue D.
Friends and colleagues surprised Martin for his shop’s golden anniversary last week, celebrating a career Martin never planned on having.
After finishing his service in the Marine Corps in 1963, Martin intended to pursue his childhood dream and become a lawyer, but fortunate for his thousands of
clients, a lawyer friend unhappy with the vocation helped dissuade him.
Martin would clearly rather commune than argue anyway.
“I like people, the conversation, the social life,” he said. “If you’re not a lover of people,” it’s not the right job.
It used to be he could look out the window and recognize every child’s face he saw by name, but while Snohomish has grown since he opened, his customers all feel like family.
Most like family is Tony Henry, Martin’s heir apparent.
The two barbers have much in common, including military service, single fatherhood and a love of the business.
In Martin’s case, he not only raised three children but his grandchildren as well.
After coming to Stag for a cut, Henry returned, telling Martin he’d always wanted to be a barber, but life had gotten in the way.
With an agreement that he’d find a job waiting if he returned to Stag properly certified, Henry began his work.
But building a customer base takes time and not too long ago, Henry wondered if he would have to give up on his dream career before it had just started.
Again, Martin had an offer.
Today, Henry lives on Martin’s property, saving so much on rent he was able to stay in the trade where he has been building a following.
When Martin shifts to part time work in a couple months, he says it will be Henry who will step up and eventually take over the business.
Over five decades, he’s seen a lot of hairstyles come and go. Pop bands and sports stars both had their 15 minutes, from a Beatles-style mop to Elvis’ signature pompadour to the bleach-blonde mullet/mohawk hybrid known as the “Bosworth” after the former Seahawks linebacker of the same name.
Although the prices have risen, from $2.50 to $25, they still only take cash and they don’t take appointments.
And while he’s willing to cut a customer’s hair however they request it, 50 years’ worth of styling have given him ample time to form opinions.
As for his least favorite cut, it’s the “shaved up the side ‘hard part,’” which the internet labels “edgy, modern, cool, and versatile,” but Martin has one word that customers who respect experience might want to heed.
For customers who are open to his expert opinion, like a bearded man a little overdue for a trim, “I’ll make you look so doggone good you might get a date,” he teases.
“I’m not sure my wife would like that,” the patron in the chair retorts with a chuckle.
Angela Cooper-McCorkle: email@example.com / 360-568-4121 x124
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