This is not fast-food hair. It’s not exactly “your grandfather’s barbershop,” either. Spin’s Barber Shop (4501 Interlake Ave N) primarily works on an appointment basis; men, women and youth make up its customer base; cuts last 30 minutes; and, 90 percent of storeowner Spin’s customers are regulars—some for the past 20 years.
And, Spin’s in his late 30s—a far cry from the 60-something-year-old you might expect to see running this type of operation. It makes sense though, if you know his career took off in the eighth grade.
Born and raised in Washington state, Spin (born Spyridon Nicon, but nicknamed “Spin” after his grandfather) started cutting the hair of his friends and family in his parents’ basement for three bucks apiece throughout high school. In college, his price went up to five dollars a cut and working out of his dorm bathroom…and later his rental house kitchen. Haircutting doesn’t run in Spin’s family; he initially just wanted to make some fast cash. As a college student, ten haircuts at five bucks each quickly translated to a keg with a sleeve of cups.
Following undergrad, Spin attended barber school at Seattle Central Community College, and in 1995 he was hired on at Rudy’s Barbershop in U-District. After working on commission for three years in a “get ‘em in, get ‘em out” environment, Spin decided to go into business on his own and establish a more personal touch. “You can’t make a career working for someone else. It’s not lucrative,” he said. “If you do hair, you wanna work for yourself.”
He took three of his co-workers and all of his customers with him. “I wasn’t going to walk out the door without them,” said Spin. In 1998, he opened his first shop in Tangletown, and then moved to Wallingford—just off of Interlake Ave and 45th—in 2002. Two other barbers, Jordan and Chez currently work in Spin’s shop. They rent chairs from Spin, but at the end of the day they’re their own bosses.
Each barber’s workstation is distinctly his own, too. Jordan’s is wallpapered with comic book covers and scantily clad bikini models, with a single square of wall reserved for the mirror. All the workspaces are outfitted with antique barber chairs, the majority dating back to the ’60s and ’70s. Chez owns and works out of the oldest—a 1939 black-and-white barber chair with an ornate, metal-plated footrest. One chair came from a family friend’s father’s basement, Chez brought his own and they’ve acquired most of the others as local barbershops closed.
Spin attributes the lack of old-fashioned barbershops in Seattle to its very nature as a cosmopolitan city. “I don’t think you could go completely old school in 2010 and make it,” he said. Chain salons, which play up their late evening shifts and no-reservation-necessary mantra, have taken hold and are well suited to our “get it now” society.
At Spin’s though, even celebrities need to book appointments. Years ago, Dave Matthews stopped by the shop’s former Tangletown location looking for a quick cut. Failing to recognize the Grammy Award-winning musician, Spin responded to him as he would any walk-in when facing an already full schedule: He sent him across the street to Beehive Salon. “I told him, you can go there, but it’ll probably be a little expensive…not knowing I was talking to a multimillionaire,” Spin said, laughing. Matthews hasn’t returned since, and Spin says he’d venture to guess the musician has become a Beehive regular.
“The hardcore ‘your grandfather’s barbershop’ doesn’t really exist anymore,” said Spin. His business comes close, though—especially when it comes to his relationship with customers. Nine times out of ten when he answers the phone, he knows who it is. “We have a ton of repeat business,” he said. The day Wallyhood met with Spin, his 10’clock was a guy whose hair he’d started cutting in the eighth grade. His last four appointments of the day were with seven-to-twelve year customers. “You look forward to it. It’s reliable. Spin is my Cheers,” said 12-year patron Scot Partlow.
Spin offers more than just a trim to his customers. Many of them have privately confided in him over the years. It takes a lot of trust to share that your wife is dying of cancer or you’ve had a miscarriage, said Spin. “You get to know them. The act of a haircut is fairly intimate. “You’re in their face…you’re in their space,” he said.
Business has lagged a bit over the past few years for Spin. He attributes this to customers cutting back by spacing out haircuts. It’s more like every five weeks now, instead of every three, he said. That said, the shop hasn’t reached “shut-your-doors bad” by any means, Spin said.
Standing on his feet for eight-to-nine hours a day and returning home exhausted, he admits the job is physically taxing. Spin’s also married with twin 2-year-old daughters. Ideally, he’d like to retire early. “The lifestyle is good,” said Spin. There aren’t many 40-50 hour-a-week jobs out there where you make this kind of money and are afforded so much flexibility, he explains. “I don’t know what other job could hit all the marks.”