You Need a Haircut
Business is booming at Barnwood Barber Shop in Tygh Valley
Story and photos by Drew Myron
“You need a haircut, and I’m going to give it to you,” says Leslie Douglass, with a mix of tough love and tender smile as she snaps open a cape and raises her clippers.
Nearly one year ago—when it seemed everyone was shaggy in the aftermath of COVID-19 restrictions—Leslie and her husband, Greg Winkler, opened Barnwood Barber Shop in Tygh Valley. It is the only barber shop in south Wasco County.
Located in the center of the tiny town of Tygh Valley—population of about 200— the nearest barber shop is 30 miles north in The Dalles. Ditching the drive, the hassle and the expense of gas, Barnwood clients come from the surrounding small communities of Wamic, Pine Hollow, Pine Grove, Maupin, Rock Creek and Dufur.
“We have over 400 clients,” says Leslie, who sees up to 10 customers a day, as well as clients at Canyon Rim Senior Living in Maupin. “We’ve done thousands of haircuts since we opened, and more keep coming.”
Leslie is a rare find. Female barbers are few in the male-dominated industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 only 18% were women, although many barbers work without obtaining permits and licenses and don’t show up in government data.
The job outlook is good, too. Opportunity is projected to grow by 19% by 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8%.
What’s old is new again at Barnwood, where old barn wood is functional art. A car hood serves as a door awning, a worn saddle is now a chair, and an old gas pump door displays the company mission statement.
The garage-turned-barber shop is clad in weathered wood collected from barns on Tygh Ridge Road and Juniper Flats that date back to the early 1900s. Greg repurposed the wood into exterior siding, interior crown molding and more.
Barnwood clients are nearly all men, mostly retired, who appreciate traditional grooming services. While a hair salon may offer cuts, color and curls, a barber shop provides cuts, trims and shaving.
“No chemicals, no perms, no color,” Leslie explains.
Most haircuts are $20, and she charges by the length: short, medium or long. Leslie’s favorite service is a straight razor shave, a 45-minute process that includes a hot towel treatment.
“It’s almost a lost art,” she says. “We’re an old-fashioned barber service. Everybody that comes in gets an eyebrow trim. It’s what barbers used to be.”
While spotlessly clean and comfortable, don’t expect online booking or even a website. Appointments are made over the phone or by walking in.
“That’s the culture of a barber shop,” Leslie says. “We’re low-tech. The highest tech we get is Google and Facebook.”
When Greg and Leslie moved from Troutdale to Tygh Valley in 2018, they weren’t planning to work. They frequently vacationed at Pine Hollow, so finding a property in Tygh Valley that had a home and large garage was ideal. They were ready for a peaceful retirement.
Greg spent his career restoring American hot rods and was thrilled to have space to work on his own cars.
Leslie had worked as a hair stylist in the 1980s, then spent years in a variety of roles, from nonprofit fundraising to health care administration and more. She hadn’t thought of returning to hair until the pandemic ensued.
“It made me think about what was important, what people wanted and needed,” she says.
At 63, Leslie got recertified as a hair professional.
Between his garage bays that gleamed with classic cars, Greg created a onelevel, wheelchair-accessible shop space. Barnwood Barber Shop opened in November 2021.
Mick Carey of Wamic is a loyal client who comes for a cut every three weeks.
“I used to go to Portland or The Dalles,” he says. “But I like supporting local business.”
Business is so good at Barnwood Barbershop, Leslie says she doesn’t have time to tend her own hair.
“Look at this,” she says, smiling as she grabs a handful of her long, straight locks, “I cut a bit at the front but didn’t get to the back. I have to find somebody to cut my hair.”