Q&A: Dave Carty of Longview Barber Shop

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Longview Barber Shop is reinventing what it means to be a “traditional barber shop.” The Clintonville mainstay has survived while many others have fallen to the wayside, and is now experiencing something of a renaissance. Owner David Carty credits former owner Jim Pack’s hard work to keeping the shop afloat, but it’s new blood that is allowing Longview to thrive. Growing in both number and diversity, Longview’s young-gun staff has transformed the nostalgic spot into a go-to destination. On Saturday, May 16 the shop celebrates the arrival of its newest barber, Vice’s Mitch Geiser, and the completion of its renovation with live music, food trucks and Barley’s Brewing Co. giveaways.

The barber industry was never dying, but it was definitely on life support for a while. In the ’60s and ’70s, long hairstyles were in, and so was moving to the suburbs. Barbershops are the ultimate neighborhood business, so as neighborhoods suffered so did the barber industry. In any city where suburban flight wasn’t happening, barbershops were still an important part of the neighborhood. Now that the neighborhoods are coming back, the traditional neighborhood barber businesses are flourishing. Whenever the economy is bad, people like to do traditional things. Traditional hairstyles are coming back, and now a younger generation is interested in this type of haircutting again. When you have young, talented people doing anything you’re going to have a better product.

Jim Packwas one of the most determined barbers I’ve ever met. The previous owner [Pack] was here for 38 years. He bridged the divide that allowed us to stay open. He started doing longer hairstyles for free — just to prove he could. We have several schools in the neighborhood with dress codes, so some of the customers had to come get haircuts. Just keeping the place open was an amazing accomplishment. It’s easier to do construction during a booming time than keeping a place open when nobody was interested in coming to a place like this.

There has been a great turnaround and the momentum is in our favor. I went to barber college in the mid-’90s, but people hadn’t gone to barber college for decades because it was considered a dying business. There was a lost generation, and a talent drain in the industry. Now the expectation is that if you go to barber college you can have a great deal of success. But trends change, so now our goal is to keep fanning those flames. Even an old-fashioned barber shop is part of the fashion industry, and if you’re not up on current trends you’ll fall behind. Focusing on talented people seems cliché, but that’s what it is. The barbers don’t work for me, they are independent contractors; at least two of them make more money than I do. I’m not interested in creating jobs; I’m interested in creating careers. Jobs are temporary; careers are permanent, which serves as motivation.

The initial reaction to our growth among some of our clients was concern. We actually lost some customers because they didn’t like the change — but a lot of customers embraced it or we wouldn’t be here. The key is focusing on our history — we aren’t faking it. We’re the oldest barber shop in Columbus. I had a customer challenge me once saying I was ruining his dad’s barber shop — I told him I was building his grandkids’ barber shop. Each barber we’ve hired has set the bar so high; I don’t have to make decisions about our staff because if they can’t cut hair and give great customer service, they simply won’t make it.

Barbers and cosmetologists are not the same thing. There are two different licensing boards in Ohio; cosmetology is a broader curriculum and starts at a high school level. Barbering is 1,800 hours of intensive haircut training exclusively; we’re specialists in hair-cutting. It’s considered college-level courses. Each license is valid, they’re just different. The best thing for barber students is leverage. Far fewer barber students from Barber College than cosmetology, so they are in higher demand. But all your eggs are in one basket. The vast majority of our clientele come in looking for a haircut, not any other service a cosmetologist might offer.

We haven’t made plans in the past, and that’s worked. So much of our growth wasn’t anticipated. We anticipated growth because of the people we were working with, but you can’t anticipate trends. We never anticipated the boom in tradition hairstyles — we were prepared for it, but I can’t say we anticipated it.

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Age: 40

Hometown: Plymouth, Ohio

Current neighborhood: Worthington

Currently listening to: Maroon 5

Playing Favorites:

Favorite movie: "Hoosiers"

Favorite TV show: "The Walking Dead"

Favorite restaurant: "It's a tie between Cornerstone and Smith's Deli"

Favorite beverage: "Please bring me your finest cola."

Best way to spend $10: High school sporting events. 

Favorite comedian: "C-Bus' own, Billy Griffin." 

If you go:

Longview Barber Shop Open House

5-9 p.m. Saturday, May 16

3325 N. High St., Clintonville