by Grady Mitchell | A window display up Main Street bears a proud new slogan: “Best Hood Feel Good.” The first two words describe where you are: at 4326 Main St, the heart of Little Mountain. The last two wrap up how you’ll feel the moment you step through the door. This is Paulie’s Barbershop, newly opened by Paul Donnici, whom you might know from his years holding down a chair at The Belmont and keeping Vancouver’s men presentable.
Paul’s journey into barberhood began in 2008 when he was tending bar in Montreal. One day his old Italian barber planted the notion in his head – but refused to teach him. “Young people don’t have time to learn old jobs,” Paul remembers him saying.
When he moved to Vancouver a few years later Paul found a mentor in Belmont founder Dustin Fishbook, who took him on as an apprentice, Paul says, “for those brave enough to sit for a two hour haircut with a nervous new barber.” After five happy years at Belmont, Paul and his wife Molly, who he met when she managed the much-missed Mr. Lee’s Haberdashery above the Belmont, decided to venture out on their own.
They wanted something in their neighbourhood, which they found in a space that had recently housed a Thai import store. They took over in November and spent six weeks building it out based on a design by Molly and with the expertise of their friend Jay McEwen. “Our main goal for the shop’s aesthetic was to find the balance between minimal but still welcoming – a friendly spot with some space to breathe,” Paul says. “Donald Judd and Le Corbusier were big influences, but so were lots of photos of old barbershops from the 60’s through the 90’s.” The result is a bright and airy space hung with Kubrick prints and stocked with everything you need to look/smell/feel great.
In addition to being just blocks from their house, the new turf comes with a broader clientele. There are more silver hairs to sweep up at the end of the day, and the occasional younger client who might require a booster seat to fit in the chair. “We love the conversations that take place,” Paul says. “There’s been an impromptu music lesson between a younger client waiting for his cut with his instrument in tow and a teacher in the chair, we have a regular set of people who roll in to say hi to Stella (our dog/general manager), old long-time clients and new ones.”
The “feel good” portion of their slogan doesn’t just acknowledge that you’ll look great when you say goodbye to Paul and, perhaps more importantly, Stella. It’s more about the time you spend between having the smock draped over you and the final back-of-the-neck dust-off, catching up, shooting the shit, maybe even learning a new chord or two. “I never take for granted the fact that I visit with friends every day on the job,” Paul says.