PORTAGE | Carlos Chavez says he has a talent for the barbering business and has set out to prove it by reopening a closed business and naming it First Choice Barber Shop.
The shop, which had several owners and operated under several names during its more than 60 years in business, was closed in December when its proprietor became ill.
Chavez of Chesterton lived in Portage as a youngster and would go to the shop for haircuts. He also had worked there for a short while after leaving barber school in 2011.
When it closed and became available, Chavez decided it would be the perfect place to start his own business.
“I decided to give it a shot,” he said.
Chavez, 38, said he loves the barbering business and is only sorry it took him so long to realize that barbering is where his talents lie.
“I went to barber school as a means to an end,” said the former laborer. “But I found out I should have been doing this a long time ago. I’m proud of what I’m doing. I have a natural talent for it.”
Chavez said there’s a natural talent in knowing what kind of haircut will look good on a person.
“It’s like your instinct kicks in and you how to do it,” he said. “I can look at a person and know what would look good on them and make the suggestion and they end up liking it and coming back.”
Using saving and borrowing money from his family, Chavez leased and renovated the shop that opened in mid-August..
“My family supported me,” he said. “They got together and supported me so I can follow my dream and have my own shop.”
Chavez spent about $5,000 on new floors, interior walls, plumbing, cabinets, barber chairs.
“It’s been a barber shop since 1959,” he said. “It had an old rustic charm, but it was kind of dirty and dingy looking. Customers coming back are amazed to the transformation.”
Chavez also bought a special cabinet where he and his three barbers, who are sub-contractors, heat the hot towels used when they give haircuts and “old fashioned” straight-razor shaves.
“Using the hot towels is very relaxing,” Chavez said. “No one offers straight-razor shaves anymore. You have to be trained in that area and be a licensed master shaver.”
Beside the challenge of putting in the long hours he’s in the shop, he said his only stress is “getting and keeping the chairs filled.”
Chavez predicts it will take about a year to repay his investors.
“It’s kind of in neutral right now,” he said. "It was always packed as a barber shop, and I want to bring it back to its glory and how it used to be. It’s had a lot of owners and I wanted to add my niche in the belt.”