A sad hair day for shop's clientele - Albuquerque Journal

A sad hair day for shop’s clientele

FOR THE RECORD: This column incorrectly identified the barber who has taken over Park View Barber Shop at 629 Amherst Drive NE. He is Abel Otero, who is operating Fonzie’s Barber Shop.

Every few weeks when nothing else is going on, Mike Gonzales, 80, puts Joe Dominguez, 81, in the barber chair and gives him a haircut. When Gonzales has finished trimming the fringe around his friend’s bald dome, they switch and Dominguez takes his scissors to Gonzales’ puffy white mane.

This has been going on for 37 years, as long as the two have co-owned the Park View Barber Shop, a three-chair nook on Amherst just across from Bataan Park in Albuquerque.

Customer Wally Drangmeister, taking inventory of Joe and Mike’s unmatched noggins the other day, couldn’t resist a wisecrack. “Somebody has to work harder than somebody else,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Another customer, Peter Holter, who has been coming to Parkview every three weeks for the past decade, assured me the barbers are top-notch. “It’s a five-star place,” he said. “Or is it a five-scar place?”

That kind of good-natured ribbing – about thinning hair, graying hair, getting old and the wife’s honey-do list – are as much a part of barbershop life as a rack of men’s magazines.

Joe Dominguez finishes 3-year-old Ollie Olson's haircut. In 50-plus years of barbering, Dominguez has learned a gentle touch. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
Joe Dominguez finishes 3-year-old Ollie Olson’s haircut. In 50-plus years of barbering, Dominguez has learned a gentle touch. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Gonzales, a native of Questa who started trimming his classmates’ and teachers’ hair when he was a 15-year-old in high school, and Dominguez, a native of Bernalillo who picked up his first barber shears when he was 18 and joined the Army, have shared a rhythm of snipping, shearing, shaving and socializing that seems impossible to end.

But after more than a century between them of flattops, pompadours, shags and hot shaves, the two are calling it quits, selling their shop and retiring. Friday will be their last day.

For generations of men and boys, many of them Albuquerque businessmen or professors at the nearby University of New Mexico, it will be the end of a cozy era.

“It’s been my life now for 58 years,” Dominguez said as he sharpened his straight-edge to shave around Drangmeister’s neck and ears. “We’ve had generations coming here. They’re not just customers; they’re friends and family, more or less.”

Looking at Gonzales, standing beside him, and wielding a comb and scissors, Dominguez said, “He’s like my brother.”

Dominguez and Gonzales met years ago in another barbershop in Albuquerque, “Moe’s.” It was a five-chair shop owned by Gonzales’ brother, Moe.

The Gonzales clan of Questa were farmers, but they had hair-cutting in their blood. Gonzales ticks off the names of five of his brothers who went into barbering and three of his sisters who became hairstylists.

What will Mike Gonzales, left, miss when he hangs up his shears later this week? Shooting the breeze with customers, some who have been coming to the Park View Barber Shop for decades. At right is Paul Frye. Bruce Davis is in the center. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
What will Mike Gonzales, left, miss when he hangs up his shears later this week? Shooting the breeze with customers, some who have been coming to the Park View Barber Shop for decades. At right is Paul Frye. Bruce Davis is in the center. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

After saving up his quarters during high school (fellow students paid Gonzales 50 cents for a crewcut and teachers sometimes gave him a dollar), Gonzales struck out for California as an 18-year-old and attended barber school in San Francisco. He still remembers the advice of an instructor they called Smitty: “Mike,” he said, “take your time. Concentrate on your work. The speed will come.”

Dominguez got his professional training in Pasadena, Calif., and by chance ended up at Moe’s. Dominguez had worked there for 17 years and Gonzales had been there for 21 when the Parkview space came open and they decided to team up.

“We don’t have a boss here,” Dominguez said. “We have them at home, but not here.”

The decision to lay down the scissors was influenced by a number of factors. Dominguez has cancer, and he’s ready to take it a little easier. Gonzales thought about finding another partner, but none of the young barbers he tried out fit the bill.

Joe Dominguez, left, and Mike Gonzales straighten up Park View Barber Shop at closing time on February 12, 2014. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
Joe Dominguez, left, and Mike Gonzales straighten up Park View Barber Shop at closing time on February 12, 2014. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

“They work for a little bit, and then they want to go party and they land up in jail,” he said. “I had a heck of a time with the young guys.”

So this month ushers in a new era. Barber Abel Lucero will be running the Parkview. Gonzales will do a little fishing, and Dominguez looks forward to riding his bike.

In a few weeks, their hair will start growing out and Gonzales said they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it. “We’re going to have to find a barber, I guess.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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