Business

Paul Samuelson opens one-chair barber shop in Langley

"With longtime friend and client Frank Ploof sitting in the oldest active barber's chair on South Whidbey, Paul Samuelson gets clipping in his new, one-man barber shop in Langley Village.Matt Johnson/staff photoPaul can see you nowLangley's only barber, Paul Samuelson, is working enough hours every week to cut every hair that needs it. Paul's hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The shop also carries the full line of Samuelson's Island Beauty Supply product line. To make an appointment, call Paul at 221-4140.Two weeks ago, Paul Samuelson became a free agent.Perhaps the best known and most durable barber on South Whidbey, Samuelson made like an enterprising owner-manager-player in early January when he opened a new, one-chair barber shop in Langley Village off Second Street. Much like a sports team owner starting a new franchise in a neighboring market, Samuelson will be putting all his clipping energy into the new shop, ending his years at the Freeland Paul's & Company shop he still owns.Now, in Langley, it's just Paul's, and for four days a week, he will be at work as Langley's only barber.Sports metaphors are as appropriate in describing Samuelson as they are when talking about the Seattle Mariners Edgar Martinez, whose autographed poster hangs on the wall of Samuelson's new shop. Next to cutting hair, being a sports fan is his most consuming passion. Or maybe it is the other way around.Of course, Samuelson has found time for other things as well. For a dozen years he was a member and chairman of the South Whidbey School Board, and the high school library is named in his honor. While at work, Samuelson is surrounded by the history of sport. On the wall hang dozens of signed baseball and golf caps, including one penned by Orioles hall of famer Brooks Robinson. Displayed in the shop's waiting area is a more personal piece of Samuelson's collection, an original Buster Brown bat once owned and used by Samuelson's father. And on the wall next to the barber's chair is Samuelson's most prized bit of sports history -- a Pacific Coast Championship medal earned by his son Kevin while rowing on a crew team for Berkeley.At all times, the wall-mounted television in the shop is tuned into one of several cable sports channels, making a haircut more of a guys' social event for customers than a monthly chore. It's a very male-oriented spot, Samuelson said. It's like coming to work every day and hanging out with your friends. Even so, Samuelson said his shop is not just for men. In his 22 years on South Whidbey, he has owned at least one hair styling salon or barber shop in Clinton, Langley and Freeland and has done almost as many women's haircuts as men's. At his new shop, Samuelson will work primarily with shorter hair styles for both men and women, leaving the longer hair for the stylists at his Freeland shop.I've always wanted to stay pretty traditional in hair styling, he said.Samuelson's shop conveys that sense of tradition in things as simple as the chair he uses. Shortly after he came to Whidbey Island in 1978, Samuelson purchased the chromed steel barber's chair and the wood sink vanity he uses in the new shop. He purchased it from the late Rick Capps, for years a Langley barber. On that vanity is a huge jar of unshelled peanuts, which customers are encouraged to eat after shelling them over the floor. In the shop's waiting area, those with a sweet tooth can grab a rope of red licorice.I've always had peanuts and licorice in my shops, he said.Samuelson said he and his wife, Karen, worked for weeks prior to opening to redecorate the shop, which the couple rented to several other businesses in the six years they have owned it. After a renter moved out late last year, the couple decided to move the barber shop in.It was time, Samuelson said.The business climate was also right, since the Studio A hair salon moved from its Anthes Street location its new home in Freeland. Samuelson built the Langley building that housed Studio A and opened the salon. He is now renting the building to Whidbey Antiques. Paul's & Company in Clinton remains open, with two full-time stylists and three part-time stylists cutting hair seven days a week.If a sports reporter were to speculate on Samuelson's future in the hair business, he might say that the new shop is Samuelson's last before moving on to the Hall of Fame. But like a cagey star ball player, Samuelson said he will happily stay in the game as long as it is good to him and he is good for it. "

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