Fresh cut

Chico’s Barbershop has downtown looking sharp

There’s a chair open at Eberardo Alvarez’s Chico’s Barber Shop.

There’s a chair open at Eberardo Alvarez’s Chico’s Barber Shop.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

“Third Street is killing it,” said Eberardo Alvarez as he surveyed the one-way road in front of his storefront—Chico’s Barber Shop—on a recent sunny afternoon.

The point is hard to argue when you look at the street’s rapidly changing landscape—from the super-hip Momona noodle and bao restaurant and its “fine-wine dining” neighbor, Rallo’s West; to the recently relocated Burgers and Brew, with its ridiculous 64 taps of craft beer and the soon-to-open Crepeville down the block; to Alvarez’s own stylish shop, complete with a sweet refurbished Volkswagen bug sporting the Chico’s logo parked out front. That’s four hip new businesses opened on that street within the last year, with a fifth (Crepeville) on the way.

Chico’s debuted last April Fool’s Day and has quickly made its mark downtown. “We’ve been doing phenomenal,” Alvarez said. “I feel like this is what downtown Chico needed—an old-school barber.”

While it has proper old-school credentials, the look and feel of Chico’s (162 E. Third St.) is an artful blend of classic and modern. With an open floor plan—with plenty of space to mount a few flat-screen TVs and hang the barbers’ bikes on hooks—and comfortable and sleek black couches and benches and a wall of windows looking out to the street, the shop has an airy, relaxed feel, like a clubhouse.

There are seven licensed barbers (including Alvarez) in the shop, plus one licensed cosmetologist, and many of them share the same hip modern/throwback style as their surroundings—with freshly clipped fades variously juxtaposing colorful tattoos or neatly trimmed full beards. In fact, chances are, if you’ve seen a stylishly bearded/mustachioed hipster with a clean, classic haircut, it was probably a Chico’s barber who groomed him. The place is undeniably hip.

And Alvarez admits that that was something he envisioned when he opened the place—“I just wanted to have something cool and hip,” he said. But he stressed that even more than being the hipster’s go-to barber, he and his crew want to create a welcoming atmosphere for all walks of life.

“[We’re] family-friendly … cool enough for the coolest kid and Uncle Bill to come in for a haircut.” The vision is for a relaxed shop offering some respite from the stresses of life, even providing a kind of low-key therapy. “Come in here, hang out, get a haircut—tell us how you feel,” he said.

Alvarez moved to Chico from Live Oak three years ago. Before opening his own shop, he worked cutting hair elsewhere around town—most recently at another downtown shop, Danny’s, on Broadway. He said that making the transition to business owner was a challenge. He says he had to fight against preconceptions of his circumstances—growing up poor and Latino in a rural Nor Cal town—and he didn’t want to settle into any stereotypes. The choice to “be a business owner, not just a business-goer” was particularly empowering.

And as a 26-year-old, successful business owner—who’s also recently married (to his high school sweetheart, Carol)—the future looks promising for Alvarez, as well as for the changing face of Chico.