Lining one wall of the barbershop is a collection of knives, antique hairbrushes and hand mirrors. The knives are handcrafted, dating back as far as the 1880s to the 1930s. Against the facing wall, marking four separate stations, are mirrors, drawers and three Koken barber chairs from 1945 — the fourth yet to be brought in from Seattle.
At Big B’s Barbershop and Shaving Parlor, everything is mid-century, said owner Bobby Beeman.
Beeman opened his new barbershop in Lakeside last month, though the barbershop itself is not new but rather a descendant of a barbershop that changed few hands before making its way to Montana.
Sky’s Barbershop first opened in 1951 in Seattle. Beeman met the second owner of the shop — a classically trained barber who could still sling a razor at 70 years old — several years ago after he first embarked on a career as a barber.
Five years ago Beeman purchased Sky’s from his predecessor, and only recently closed it to bring his business here to Montana.
“It’s closed but not lost; the essence of the shop is still here,” Beeman said. “I pulled it off at the roots and transplanted it from Seattle.”
Beeman grew up in and out of the Flathead Valley. His family owned a couple of restaurants and he started working at age 12. He quit going to school in the ninth grade, and instead opted to earn a GED diploma. He then went on to study psychology and sociology before continuing his career in the restaurant industry and moving to Seattle, where he worked in management positions for Amore and Hard Rock Cafe.
He had climbed to the pinnacle of his restaurant career, but at the same time began to feel underused and under-appreciated.
Looking to gain independence from the corporate world, Beeman began searching for new ventures. He managed an assisted-living facility for a time and later tried to open a hot dog stand.
During this time, Beeman had started researching the old, traditional styles of a barbershop and found he identified with it on many levels.
“I began to understand the difference between a barbershop and a salon; the lines had been faded,” he said.
Beeman went from being interested in barbering, to a student at the Washington Beauty School in Seattle, to a barbershop owner in a year and two months.
While Beeman had managed restaurants for many years, owning his own business was something new.
Unlike running a restaurant, owning a barbershop allowed Beeman the freedom to take his time and go at his own pace. He had the ability to put a sign in the window reading “next appointment isn’t until 3:30,” if he needed an hour to himself.
“Taking a service an hour and taking it slower is better for you and your service if you aren’t feeling up to par,” he said, adding that he tries to follow some advice a friend once gave him, to “drive your business, not let your business drive you.”
After living in a large metropolitan area, Beeman said his goal has been to create more of a “hometown barbershop” vibe for his clients.
“It’s a very holistic space, a space where men often met for solitude,” Beeman said. “The straight-razor shave is the epitome of masculinity.”
He enjoys the old-school traditions of being a barber — like using a straight razor for a long, hot shave — and follows a mantra of “preserving tradition while embracing change.
“I feel like the traditions of the barbershop have begun to be lost,” he said. “... There’s a loyalty that comes with it. Finding a new barber is like finding a new dentist or a new doctor. It’s who you’re going to tell your secrets to.”
One of the struggles of running a barbershop is striking a balance on how many clients to have, he said.
“It’s not comforting to have four people chomping at the bit in the waiting room while you’re trying to get a hot shave,” Beeman said, adding that at the same time, a barber also needs the clients to stay in business.
Following in the old style of a hot shave, it’s a two to three hot towel process that takes about an hour’s time — a service meant to offer “pure comfort.
“I’ve experienced snoring with a razor blade at the throat of a man,” Beeman said.
Among the services offered at Beeman’s barbershop are the classics — a regular hair cut with a hot neck shave, a hot towel facial and buzz cuts. He also offers a razor cut for women and deep hair and skin treatments.
Last year Beeman also started his own product line, including shaving soap, beard oils and aftershave, which are currently awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration to be sold commercially in stores. For now though, the product can be purchased directly at his shop.
Big B’s Barbershop and Shaving Parlor is located at 7254 U.S. 93 S. Unit 2 in Lakeside and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call 406-891-0711 or visit the barbershop’s Facebook page @BigBarberBobbys.
Reporter Alyssa Gray may be reached at 758-4433 or email@example.com.