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Forty years of haircuts with humor

by: Jim Clark, Melodie Favara took over her father's barber shop after his death in 1997. The shop has been open since 1972.

Few people have the courage to annoy someone using scissors around their hair.

But apparently, wielding scissors and possessing an acerbic manner builds customer loyalty.

'Customers liked Daddy, so they kept coming back,' said Melodie Favara, referring to her father, Paul, former owner of Hair's My Barber Shop on Kane Drive. 'He would get done with a haircut and he'd say, 'Hurry up and grow some more. And if you can't grow more, just send the money.' Customers liked his crotchetiness, and he just liked to do things his way.'

For the past 40 years, things have always been done Paul's way. The shop has long been reputed as slightly off center in décor and attitude, but dependable for sending customers off all 'dialed in from the neck up' after an appointment.

The only thing that has changed, however, other than the avocado green and tangerine orange chairs, is the owner. Favara has run the shop since Paul's death in 1997 and tends to flat tops and 'high and tights' with the same wicked sense of humor and brisk manner as her father.

It's a tribute and a legacy Favara is proud to uphold.

Favara comes by the barbering profession via genetics. Her grandmother was a hairstylist in Beverly Hills, Calif. Dad entered the trade after his discharge from the Army. Though Favara started her career in beauty school in the 1980s, she switched to barbering after realizing froo-froo hair styles weren't her gig.

'I didn't want to deal with little old women with five hairs on their head, who wanted to look like Farrah Fawcett,' she said. 'Men are so much easier to deal with. You can say things to men and they don't get upset with you.'

Favara admits to a tumultuous relationship with her father while growing up in the San Fernando Valley area in Southern California. A high-spirited rebel, she often ran away from home in an effort to capture her dad's attention. The resulting emotional distance took years to repair.

'He carried a grudge,' Favara said. 'But out of all my brothers and sisters, I was the one who wanted to be close to him.'

The gap widened further when Paul moved to Grants Pass when she was a teenager. After a lengthy struggle to get his Oregon barber's license, Paul relocated to Gresham in the early 1970s. On May 11, 1972, he opened Paul's Barbers on Kane Drive. The shop was a three-chair operation, with 1960s-era equipment and a head barber who carried a 'take it or leave it' attitude.

'He used to smoke while he cut hair,' Favara said. 'If customers complained, he would tell them to go find another barber.'

In 1995, Favara found herself divorced and and raising a 14-year-old son as a single mother. She packed a truck and moved to Gresham to work side-by-side with her father. It wasn't an easy transition.

'I had kept in touch with him over the years, and he kept asking me when I was going to come up here,' Favara said. 'And then, when I got up here, everything I wanted to do to drum up business wasn't a good idea. Daddy was 70 years old by the time I moved up here. The business wasn't thriving by then, and he was getting tired. He had been cutting hair for 40 years already! I saw this as a great opportunity for me and my son, so I started distributing fliers around town to bring in business. Customers were actually beating me back to the shop.'

The increased business was a good thing, Favara said, but when she began to make aesthetic changes to update the shop, her father's character shone through.

'I replaced the magazines on the table with hair product,' she said, laughing. 'One of the customers said he liked what I had used on his hair and bought a bottle. Daddy pocketed the money and told him it would make good drinking in a pinch! Then I took what little money I had and reupholstered the chairs and painted the shop. I got it all dolled up. Daddy didn't say much, but he never did unless he was barking at you.'

After Paul died from lung cancer, Favara briefly considered returning to California. She decided to stay and make the business her own. In 1997, she changed the name from Paul's Barbers to Hair's My Barber.

'I figured it was a name people would remember,' she said. ''Hair' is also further up in the phone book than 'Paul.''

Forty years after the elder Favara first hung a bell over the front door, the shop appears to retain the ghost of its original cantankerous owner. Clocks remain set 15 minutes fast - to prevent late arrivals from keeping the barbers past closing time - a tall carved wooden Indian continues to alarm children, and the linoleum still bears worn marks from where Paul stood and sat.

The only difference now is the petite brunette dispensing haircuts, shaves and departing wisecracks.

'I've just kept things the way they were out of tradition,' Favara said. 'It makes me feel and believe that Daddy's still here.'

40-year fundraiser

Hair's My Barber is celebrating 40 years in business by thanking the community for its decades of support. From 1-5 p.m. Thursday, May 10, the shop will host a fundraiser for Therapy Works Northwest, a nonprofit organization that provides physical therapy to children with disabilities.

'All the proceeds from food sales, haircuts and chair massages will go to sponsor a child for any kind of therapy they need,' Favara said.

Hair's My Barber is at 1211 S.E. Kane Drive. For more information, call 503-667-5450.