A Steveston Tradition Since 1937.
The striped barber pole found outside many barbershops dates back to the Middle Ages to advertise the service offered within. Steveston Barbers’ honours this tradition at the Chatham Street shop, which happens to be celebrating its eightieth anniversary this year, making it one of the village’s longest operating businesses.
Founded in 1937 by Peter Martyniuk, Steveston Barbers got its start on Moncton Street where Village Bikes is located. In the mid-1960s the establishment moved to the opposite side of the street and changed ownership.
Iain MacKelworth left his native England in 1990 and began working at the Steveston barbershop. Three years later he jumped at the opportunity to purchase the business from owner Randy Hendricks. The shop moved to its current site in 2008 when the former location was slated for demolition.
It seems Iain was destined to become a barber. He speaks fondly of his father Tony who began cutting hair in London’s West End when he was only 15 years old. Like his father, Iain began working as a barber at the young age of 18. In 1997 Tony left England and moved to Steveston where he joined his son at the busy barbershop.
“My dad taught me all the techniques.” Iain MacKelworth
The same year Iain’s brother-in-law Ryan Lewis also joined the team; he entered the profession straight out of high school. Iain’s son Julian is the third generation of the MacKelworth family to learn the trade and works alongside his father. Long time Steveston Barbers staff Dave Lamoureux and Ray Tsuji round out the team.
All of the barbers are on top of the constant change in trends; they take pride in being “old school at heart, but modern for style.” Young men are partial to popular styles like fades and side parts, which are reminiscent of the 1930s short back and sides cut. Iain says anything goes these days; there are no standard haircuts in a day’s work.
Iain recalls his father telling him the only time the demand for barbers slumped was in the 1970s when long hair and beards were at the height of fashion. Ryan adds, “Barbering is very trendy right now.”
Maintaining a style requires a cut approximately every six weeks, and Steveston Barbers strives to keep prices affordable.
“We make sure men walk out of here feeling like a million bucks.” Ryan Lewis
Their clientele is as diverse as the cuts offered. Iain says, “Every cross section of age and stage of life comes through here, from baby’s first haircut to centenarians.” He points out if a customer has reached the age of 100 the cut is on the house. He mentions, “It is common to see three generations of customers get their hair cut here.”
It’s walk in business only at Steveston Barbers and it is common to see line-ups form on busy Saturdays. Only haircuts are offered, as they simply don’t have the space for extra services.
A visit to Steveston Barbers is also a social affair. The shop’s chairs face the centre of the room so customers can see each other. Plenty of discussions unfold, ranging from sports and politics to swapping information and networking.
Over time the eclectic décor has evolved with customers donating sports banners, cameras and beer bottles. Ryan points out that trades have been made if there is a particular piece of memorabilia that catches someone’s eye. They acknowledge the additional generous donations made to the barbershop by their friends at Steveston Tattoo Company.
“We love being part of this community. We connect with so many people and businesses and for that we feel very grateful.” Iain MacKelworth
He mentions an ongoing good-natured rivalry between him and business owner Davood Khatami of Davood’s Bistro. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup the pair backed different teams; Iain cheered for his native England while Davood supported Germany. The pair traded insults and wagers in the lead up to the big game – Germany won and in good fun Iain wore lederhosen and waved the German flag at the intersection of No. 1 Road and Moncton Street.
On a whim, Iain and Ryan decided to check out Vancouver’s 2015 Battle of the Barbers competition to see how the little shop would fare. A huge feather in their caps, they tied for first place against 40 competing barbers.
Community involvement is important to Iain and his team. He says, “The community’s been good to us and we like to give back.” They participate in Seafair Minor Hockey Association’s Fathers and Sons Shaving for the Brave event in support of B.C. Children’s Hospital.
What do the barbers enjoy most about their work? The opportunity to be creative and make clients look and feel great tops the list, along with meeting the amazing network of people who pass through the shop.
Iain concludes, “Steveston is a very special corner of the world and I have made some very good friends through the business.”
3880 Chatham Street
Richmond, BC V7E 2Z5