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The buzz on barbering

Barber Manuel Rascon, owner of Old School New Styles Barber Shops, sees a variety of clients daily. (Courtesy of Irene Leaton)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Regardless of what kind of day it is, Pete Maes is behind his chair, waiting with his scissors, clippers, a razor and an upbeat attitude to trim up a longtime friend or a brand-new customer.

That’s the kind of work ethic and passion that inspires someone like Manuel Rascon, the owner of Old School New Styles Barber Shops. A barber since 2006, Rascon said he looks to Maes, a barber for 53 years, as a role model on treating clients with kindness and respect. “(That’s) old school, but not old-fashioned,” said Rascon of his own businesses, which accommodate all ages, genders and style requests.

Your grandfather might not recognize the barbershop reborn. Rascon’s stores have sleek decor and style in every corner. Many of the male clients favor variations of the fade and taper haircuts, old-fashioned shaves, and beard trimming.

But at its heart, Rascon’s business model is based on values that are as traditional as can be: impeccable customer service.

Rascon emphasizes that his new hires straight out of barber school focus on providing good service and a good product, and he says they have to be open to learning. He insists on professionalism, which includes a dress code that frowns on holey jeans and T-shirts with off-color statements or jokes.

“Focus on the customer and their needs” and they’ll be clients with standing appointments, Rascon said. The money will follow.

He also mentors his employees on correct cutting and styling techniques.

Barber Pete Maes and his wife, Dianne, have been cutting hair together for 45 years. Pete Maes has been barbering for 53 years. He brings an upbeat attitude to work every day. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Rascon said he’s been inspired by both Pete and his wife, Dianne Maes, the owners of Pete & Roque Barber Shop.

“These are the people that you learn from,” said Rascon, marveling at both their skills and customer service orientation, like greeting people the moment they walk into the shop.

Rascon buys hair products and supplies like shaving razors from the Maeses, who have been in business for 35 years in a standalone building they own at 12717 Lomas NE, across the street from Manzano High School. They’re also landlords, subleasing space to several other barbers and stylists.

Dianne, Pete’s wife of 47 years, has her own workspace and clientele at the business, which includes a supply room where you can buy an old-fashioned razor strop, oil for clippers and talcum powder. There’s also a workroom where the enterprising Pete fashions toupees and hairpieces for men to make some extra bucks.

The couple said their parents encouraged them to find a trade at an early age so they would be self-supporting.

Pete went to barber school in Denver at the age of 16 and later finished his high school work through a correspondence course. Dianne attended beauty school while she was a high school senior.

The walls in the business, where the decor is decidedly vintage, are decorated with pictures bearing the likenesses of heroes like Gen. George S. Patton and Johnny Cash.

The couple have gotten to know generations of Burqueños, and have even cut the hair of four generations of one family. They say that it is this closeness and personal touch that their clients have come to expect. “Our prices are reasonable, and we’ll do the nearest to what they want without all the fuss. And I still shave around their ears,” said Pete of a barber technique that has fallen by the wayside over the years.

Talcs are some of the many products that Pete and Dianne Maes stock at Pete & Roque Barber Shop. Some products come from as far away as Italy.

“At this stage of the game, we’re just having fun and enjoying our customers,” Pete said as he finished cutting a customer’s hair, picked up a brush and swept him off. “Who has more fun than barbers? If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re in the wrong line of work.”

Said Dianne with a smile: “I love it. Look at the variety of people we meet. Some days you feel like a bartender or a psychiatrist,” she said of some customers who treat the appointment as a place to let their hair down.

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