Paul Donnici’s eponymous Riley Park barber shop Paulie’s Barbershop (duh) has been a space for community connection for close to a decade.
What’s your sense of the youth’s hairstyles these days?
We joke here, because it’s very uniform. We call it the TikTok Flop or the Meet Me at McDonald’s, which is, you know, all curly on top. I have a good friend, a high-school teacher, who told me that he got made fun of recently for having a side part.
Paulie’s has an old-school barbershop feel, like you’d see in New Jersey or wherever. Was that the intention all along?
Yeah, absolutely. The part that I enjoy the most about my job are the clients that I think I know pretty well after cutting their hair every month for 10 years. I’m in a really unique position; I get a wide range of friendship situations that I wouldn’t get otherwise. I spend 30 to 40 minutes with these people every month, which is sometimes more than I see some of my closest friends. There aren’t a lot of places where you can do that.
Is that why you got into this trade to begin with?
No, I would say that was an added bonus. I have a background as a bartender, so this was like a continuation of that. I definitely wanted to know how I could continue to work with people and have these interesting relationships, but not have to go to bed at 4:30 in the morning. Everybody likes coming to a community-based space. We’re about as small a business as you can get, and I think people are happy to have a spot where they can run into their neighbours and that kind of thing. I really love it.
What are the regular topics of conversation?
Real estate is a hot topic. It’s a sensitive one because everybody’s coming at it from a different angle. You’ll get the guy who just purchased a $6 million home in the neighbourhood and then there’s the person who has to leave because their home doesn’t exist anymore.
How many of your existing clients have moved elsewhere and are still coming to see you?
100 per cent of those that do [move] talk about how they’re going to come back. Maybe you don’t get every haircut here, but if you can make it work, it’s always great to see you. I don’t always remember them until I see them and it’s like, “Oh, I remember that face!” That happened yesterday with a guy who’d moved to Victoria. His hair was twice as long as it normally is when I saw him, and he’s like,” I knew I was coming to Vancouver, so I made sure to wait to get my haircut here.” That’s such a rad feeling because we definitely lose people to the suburbs all the time.
Do you feel like an anchor tenant in the community?
[My wife] Molly sometimes makes fun of me, calling me a Z-list celebrity around here. If you’re in the neighbourhood and you see someone between the ages of 20 to 50, there’s a good chance that I know them or have cut their hair.
Well you also named the shop after yourself. Was that an intentional way of introducing yourself, like, “Hey look at me!?”
Well, no, not really. We liked the sound of having the name on there. My main intention with the name when we opened was that I wanted people to know that this was a micro business. It wasn’t part of a chain, and I’m the guy running it. We did look at a couple of other names, but I liked the way it sounded. I try to think of Paulie’s as a group, a crew. And then, you know, I’m Paul.
It does seem sort of egoless.
I’m proud of the fact that I’m not the best barber in our shop. We would not be where we are now without the crazy talented crew that we’ve had pretty much all along. If I can’t do the cut myself, I can confidently give clients to my other people.
So the TikTok Flops are on point?
The TikTok Flops are on point.
@pauliesbarbershop is located at 4326 Main Street.