Until Jonathan Barlow became one of only two barbers in Ellicottville, he was one of literally hundreds of service industry employees fighting hard to make a living in one of the most popular ski resorts in the country.
“Oh, yeah, I was one of them,” Barlow said of his service industry career after he graduated high school in Ellicottville in 1993. “You can make a pretty good living at it if you work at it. I had many, many jobs.”
Born in Buffalo, Barlow moved with his parents to Ellicottville when he was just over a year old. As avid skiers, his parents loved the area and, as Barlow grew older, he also came to love the vibrant downtown life and slopes.
Still, he wasn’t satisfied working as just a bartender. A friend mentioned barber school. He thought about it and looked into it. There was a school in Rochester, one of the only in Western/Central New York, and he enrolled. He found that he had a talent for it – and he loved the conversation that flowed between customer and barber.
“I love working with people as it is, so it was a great fit,” he said.
His first barber job was in a shop in Hamburg, whose owner would eventually leave that business and join Barlow in Ellicottville.
“I learned a lot from him,” he said. “He taught me the stuff they don’t teach you in school, the real world stuff.”
Returning to Ellicottville after a stint on a Caribbean cruise line, Barlow opened his barbershop in what is referred to “the old school building,” behind M&T Bank. He built a small but loyal customer base, reaching out to locals and visitors who desired an old-fashioned cut. It wasn’t an easy feat, considering most people over the years have steered toward fancy salons.
“Barber shops aren’t as prevalent as they used to be,” he said. “But they’re coming back. More people are looking for them again.”
When Barlow got the chance to move his business to its new location at 13 Bristol Lane, Suite 13 in Ellicottville Square, he jumped at the chance. This year will be his seventh year as a barber, and by all accounts, the future looks bright. If nothing else, his business serves a purpose that had been left vacant in the village since the 1980s.
“My new shop is larger than the old one,” he said. “I’m doing great. It’s where I want to be.”
For the time being, Barlow is offering the basic services, but he would like to expand services, possibly offering shaves and facial massages more regularly.
“People ask about them,” he said.
Cutting hair still gives him a satisfaction that bartending, with all its hustle and bustle and noisy atmosphere, could not. He’s met several local celebrities, including one of Ellicottville’s most popular celebrities, a banjo player who lives in Salamanca and has made the rounds through many of the bars and restaurants throughout the years.
“Maybe I’ll put up a wall of photographs of all the celebrities that have come through,” he said.
He has found that many of the younger kids, both locals and visitors, are becoming regular visitors, which is encouraging because most kids like salons where stylists whip and cut hair into the complex styles of the day.
“I see more and more people wanting shorter cuts, and that’s great,” he said. “Keeps business going.”
For more information about Jonny Barber, call (716) 572-3321or visit his website at www.jonnybarber.biz. The business is also on Facebook at Jonny Barber Shop/Running with Scissors.