By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD — Regulars at Lenny’s Classic Barbershop know the routine: come in for a haircut, head to the fridge in back and pull out a cold beer, bottle of water — or for the more adventuresome — a slug of moonshine stored in a frosty Mason jar to enjoy while waiting.
A haircut at this old-fashioned barbershop comes complete with a hot towel wrapped around your face and — just like in the black-and-white movies — a straight razor shave.
“I’m an old-school barber,” Jeff Crenshaw, owner of this blast-from-the-past barber shop, proudly says. He has no time for highfalutin titles like “hair stylist.” He is a barber, plain and simple.
“If you have hair, we can cut it.”
If you drive past Lenny’s on Bethel Road and realize you need a trim, just pull into the parking lot. No appointment is necessary.
After parking, you most likely will be met by Recon, Crenshaw’s 10-year-old golden retriever, who often lounges in the doorway. The pooch, who’s all bark and no bite, will announce your arrival with a “ruff-fff” but not budge an inch — requiring a step-over maneuver by you to enter. “Customers love him,” beams the 61-year-old barber.
“We have tried to design our shop like Floyd’s barbershop [of television’s The Andy Griffith Show]. That’s the kind of barbershop that we want. We have people come in just to sit and talk — and we love it,” he said.
“I greet every one of my customers as they come in the door. People tell me that coming here is like coming home. It’s warm and welcoming. They know they can come in here and laugh, joke and relax. Just the old-school way.”
But be advised, there’s a motto here: “What happens in the barbershop, stays in the barbershop.”
“We sometimes know things the wives don’t,” he smirked
“I had one gentleman who bought $14,000 worth of furniture and hadn’t told his partner how much it was. Then his partner came in told me all about the furniture — and I had to keep my mouth shut,” he laughs.
“We are therapists in here. You get close to people. You know it’s so much easier to talk to somebody about something going on in your life … who is not going to tell you whether you are right or wrong. They trust us and talk to us.”
Most customers come in for a standard haircut. “With a haircut you get a straight razor shave, a hot towel and afterwards, Bay Rum, an old-school aftershave,” the owner said.
Head shaves, face shaves with a straight edge, and buzz cuts are other options. “We don’t do colors, foils, designs or wash hair. Barbers cut hair, that’s what we do,” he said matter-of-factly.
(Full disclosure: this writer, solely in the interest of professional research, was compelled to “indulge.”)
“I’ve had customers fall asleep getting this done,” the barber revealed.
Military decor dominates the barbershop, inside and out.
At the front of the barbershop building are brightly colored military flags waving in the wind — Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and National Guard. Inside, military memorabilia provided by customers is showcased everywhere. A collection hats, or covers, decorate one section of the shop. An array of challenge coins that commemorate a boat or location where someone served, is also on display.
The walls are also decorated with armed services photographs — battleships, submarines, fighter jets and missiles. Crenshaw considers them as “Walls of Honor.”
And among the collection of military photos is a huge black-and-white glossy of Marilyn Monroe. “All of the senior gentlemen go over to her and say, ‘Hi,’ every time they come in,” he chuckled.
Military folks make up about three-quarters of Lenny’s customers, in part due to the shop’s proximity to the military installations on Kitsap Peninsula and the large number of veterans living here. The haircutter’s oldest customer is 96, the youngest, just 14 months old. Most clientele are somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 years old and older.
Crenshaw’s affable wife Kim is looking to expand Lenny’s customer base by exposing the barbershop on social media. Another move to broaden the business: a rebranding of the shop with a new logo — a dramatic skull replete with wavy locks and facial hair. The cutting-edge emblem was designed by Joseph Gonyeau, a 24-year-old graffiti street artist from Bremerton.
The new logo does not indicate there will be any changes to the establishment’s style of barbering. Crenshaw hopes the contemporary design will attract “young guns” who discover they enjoy an old-fashioned barbershop experience.
The road to scissors work
Crenshaw’s path to taking over the shop was an unlikely one.
“I had been a painter for over 35 years,” he explained. “I was on a 10-foot stepladder on a roof and I took a two-story fall in 2014.”Out of the mishap, Crenshaw suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken jaw, torn rotator cuff and hip damage — and put some teeth through his lip. Crenshaw had to re-learn how to walk and took weeks of occupational therapy at a brain institute in Seattle. And his four-legged friend Recon was his therapy dog during rehab.
The fall ended his painting career. But here’s where serendipity entered his life. Crenshaw had been getting haircuts from Lenny Hagardt, the shop’s original owner, for 10 years:
“I was sitting in the chair one day talking to Lenny and trying to figure out what I was going to do. Lenny told me he thought I would make a good barber because of my painting experience. I see the lines and any kind of issues. That talk convinced me to go to barber school.”
Crenshaw trained to be an old-school barber during a nine-month course at Bates Technical College in Tacoma. Afterward he started working at Lenny’s. And last May, he purchased the shop from Lenny, who had already decided to hang up his shears and retire.
“The accident was terrible, but it was a blessing,” Crenshaw said. “I was getting too old for my trade anyway. Now I come in here every day. I wish I had become a barber a long, long time ago. I enjoy it that much. It’s not even a job.”