History – and lots of sports stuff – behind haircuts
Shave and a hair cut 10 cents? Well, it’s a hair more expensive than that now, but the Timberline barbershop in the West Vail shopping center still exudes the warmth and friendliness of the barbershops of old.
With the constant changes in the Vail Valley, it’s nice to know some businesses in the area have remained much the same over the past 20 years.
In 1983, when Clay Carlton first opened the Timberline barbershop in West Vail, he had little competition. There were only two hair salons in Vail and no one specialized in men’s hair. At the time, Carlton was already running a successful barbershop in Breckenridge and many of his clients were men from Vail, willing to drive over the pass for a trim. He knew a barbershop would do well in Vail, but he would need some help.
Clay’s brother, Jim Carlton, was living in Denver laying concrete at the time and had just suffered a bizarre accident. While walking out of a building and onto the icy street, a car slid out of control hitting Jim and pinning him between two cars. With several broken ribs, a fractured sternum and the realization he was lucky to be alive, Jim decided it was a good time to get his barber’s license and move to the mountains to work for his brother.
A woman’s touch
The business took off and at one point the Carlton brothers had five shops all the way from Glenwood Springs to Breckenridge. “Back then guys weren’t nearly as inclined to go to a beauty parlor for a hair cut,” says Jim.
The world of hair design has changed drastically in the last 10 years and so have people’s expectations for what they want and what they are willing to pay, Jim says. But there are still a lot of men who just want the basics and are accustomed to waiting a few minutes until a chair opens and they can sit down for a quick trim, he says.
The Timberline barbershop has the usual accouterments one expects to see in a barbershop, like the red and white barber pole, the traditional barber chairs with foot rests, the friendly little shop dog – named Brandy – but they also have something not always seen in barbershops and that’s a female barber. Ten years ago the boys talked Janice Cetera into working for them and she is as common a sight in the shop now as Jim and Clay.
“It took me a little while to get them trained,” she says with a laugh. “As long as they give me three to four hours of music a day, then I don’t mind having all the sports news playing on the television sets.”
No artificial colors
Music is a big part of Cetera’s background. She lived the rock “n’ roll life for eight years while married to Chicago’s lead singer, Peter Cetera.
The petite blonde has lived in the Vail Valley since 1969 and says she appreciated what Jim and Clay had going on in the shop when she decided to join them. “This is a man’s man kind of place. The guys have kept it humble and down to earth and we’re kind of old fashioned,” she says with pride in her voice.
She admits it was tough in the beginning getting accepted by the male clientele and although she was already licensed in cosmetology, she says, there were many days when she questioned whether she could make it in the “barber world.”
“Some of the men were downright mean to me. They just weren’t used to a woman barber,” Cetera says.
But once she got faster at cutting hair, her confidence increased and she says she’s glad she stuck it out.
Cetera says now the men don’t even bat an eye when she calls them over to her chair. Cetera still has some of the styling flair to her cutting technique, but she says, if someone comes in looking for the latest and hippest styles, she refers them to several full-service salons in the valley.
“We’re not set up for color or perms or the other fu-fu stuff,” Cetera says. Still, about 20 percent of Timberline’s clientele is female.
The shop is inviting at first glance – especially for sports fans. The walls are covered with sports memorabilia ranging from signed baseballs to autographed photos of famous athletes to original cereal boxes featuring Olympians and various world champions.
There’s a signed poster of Cesar Chavez who made five or six visits to the Breckenridge shop for buzz cuts while training for his big fight against Oscar De La Hoya in 1998. Just last week Vail’s own champion freestyle skier Toby Dawson, dropped by with a signed photo for Timberline’s wall.
“We’ve been cutting Toby’s hair since he was this tall,” says Jim Carlton proudly, holding his palm at knee level.
On the shelf below the hair products, there’s a signed photo of Babe Ruth and a recording of one of University of Colorado football team’s most famous football plays. The shop boasts dozens of Bronco items, including a large signed and numbered photo of the last Bronco’s game ever played in Mile High Stadium.
The orange bleacher chairs along the wall for waiting clients are originals from Mile High Stadium as well. And, as much as the guys would like to say they have something signed by Elway – well, so far, the comeback kid’s a no show at the Timberline barbershop.–
Over the years, as the number of places to get a hair cut increased in the area, the brothers closed down their other locations. Right now, they say, one shop is enough but perhaps they’ll open another one someday. “We survive on sheer volume,” says Jim Carlton.
In the hour it took to conduct this interview for the paper Jim and Janice probably did five or six haircuts each, and they said this was a slow time. Still, they would like to be busier.——
“It’s hard to compete with the Just Cuts and Cost Cutters now in the Valley and in the other ski towns. Heck, even Wal-Mart has a hair cutting place,” says Jim.
He also says they are very grateful to their many loyal customers, including several who now drive this direction over Vail Pass from Summit County. “We always welcome new clients. If a family comes in, like a father with his kids, we’ll cut them a break on our regular prices,” Jim says.
A hair cut at the Timberline will set you back all of $17 for an adult and $12 for kids, and that comes complimentary with the warm atmosphere, friendly conversation and the feeling of inclusion by genuine locals. An appointment is never necessary. Cetera says that people know the wait won’t be long when they come in.
“We work fast,” she says. “That’s what makes us a good barbershop.”-