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Canyon Country barber runs a trim business

Local barber celebrates 40 years in the same spot

Posted: June 9, 2009 7:57 p.m.
Updated: June 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Robert Ruiz cleans up longtime customer Jim Chapman Tuesday morning at Ruiz' Canyon Country Barber Shop. Ruiz is celebrating 40 years in the same location today.

Ten years ago Bob Ruiz said he had no plans to retire when he hit 65.

He’s 66 now and shows no signs of slowing down.

That’s in spite of the fact that today marks 40 years since his Canyon Country Barber Shop opened its doors.

“It’s just another day. Another beautiful day in paradise,” he said on a characteristically busy Tuesday. “(We’ll celebrate with) a few cocktails after we close.”

A barrel-chested man with a thick black pompadour and a salt-and-pepper goatee, Ruiz went to Crown Barber College in East Los Angeles, became a barber in 1959 and bought his barber shop from his then-partner in 1973.

“I always wanted to cut hair, since I was a little kid,” the longtime Piru resident said.

In the years since his shop opened, not much has changed.

The four-chair barber shop is housed in a narrow storefront in a small strip mall on Soledad Canyon Road, just east of Solamint Road.

Ruiz, his youngest daughter Anita, 11-year veteran barber Fernando Olaya and one other barber make up the staff.

Fluorescent light fixtures cast a cool glow on the linoleum flooring. The walls are covered with photos of local sports teams, especially the Canyon High School Cowboys football team.

A closer glance at the chairs lining a wall of the shop and one notices the armrests have built-in ashtrays.

“Sometimes you couldn’t see in here (because of people smoking),” Ruiz said. “Now (the ashtrays) are just used for bubble-gum wrappers.”

Little about Ruiz’s technique has changed with the years, either.

Wielding scissors and clippers, his hands glide through his customers’ hair with an artisan’s flair.

He trims the edges with a straight-razor, and caps each haircut with a scalp massage.

“It’s like icing on the cake,” he said. “It gets the blood flowing. Plus it feels good and relaxes the customer.”

Ruiz bemoaned that barber colleges rarely even touch on things like scalp massage anymore.

“Younger barbers are just getting lazy,” he said.

He also offers straight-razor shaves and said the key is steaming towels, plenty of lather and a very sharp blade.

“I like the heritage,” Saugus resident Arnold Kim said of the shop. “It’s a nice, old-school barber shop.”

Kim said he’s been coming to Ruiz’s shop for about 10 years, and sticks with Olaya.

It’s common for fathers to bring their sons to Ruiz’s shop for their first haircut, said the barber.

“My son got his first haircut here kicking and screaming,” 40-year valley resident Dennis Lyon said. “He’s 42 now.”

Lyon said when he lived in Georgia for eight years, he would still schedule a stop at Ruiz’s shop when he was on Los Angeles-area business trips.

Ruiz has not been immune from the effects of the recession.

Over the last year he said he’s seen about a 15 percent drop in business, mostly from regulars cutting down on their visits.

“We’re just getting more hair on the ground (because it’s longer),” he said with a smile. “But I’ve seen it before. They’ll come back again.”



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