Northwest Barber settles in Eburg

Eric Rosane, Staff Reporter

On the streetside of the quaint and bustling 4th Avenue in Ellensburg lies a barber’s pole that protrudes well above the sidewalks below, a lone idol shown as a testament to the historic downtown.

Without looking closely, you would hardly even notice the doorway that leads into the domain of Northwest Barbershop, but with the occasionally displayed A-frame sign and the frequent traffic that leads from the doorstep of the shop, one might get the sense that there must be something intriguing happening hidden through the brick walls.

Jamie Gutierrez is the owner and sole barber at the Northwest Barbershop, a small shop nestled in the historical downtown section of Ellensburg. Gutierrez has been serving cuts out of his current location for three and a half years and has lived in Ellensburg for roughly two years, before he commuted from Yakima.

Gutierrez, throughout his entrepreneurship with his shop, has always preferred to go with the flow and let the better side of his intuition guide him. This is easily reflected by the company of Gutierrez’s two dogs, Yoda and Bella Blue, the recently proclaimed mascots of the shop.

Growing up in Toppenish, Washington, Gutierrez began developing his craft at an early age, having cut hair for his three other brothers throughout his middle school years. After graduating with his bachelor’s from the University of Washington, and after a brief stint with what he calls a “grownup job” promoting higher education through the High School Equivalency Program, Gutierrez soon realized that his career options weren’t going to be heading towards the traditional route. After briefly considering graduate school, Gutierrez opted to follow a close friend to barber school to pursue  a longtime hobby as a potential career option.

“After I got laid off, one of my best friends was gonna go to barber school. So I went with him because I had some time to kill before I found another job,” Gutierrez says. “Halfway through, he ended up becoming a police officer, and I was halfway through, so I figured I should probably finish.”

Following his graduation from barber school, Gutierrez received an apprenticeship from Guillermo from RegularCuts, a traditional barbershop in Yakima. This is where his taste for the classic barber shop mentality came to fruition, and soon Gutierrez, found himself developing his own style and understanding towards the craft.

It would ultimately be Gutierrez’s girlfriend that would introduce him to the community of Kittitas County. After only a few visits, he would come to appreciate the many pieces of the Ellensburg community.

Gutierrez’s aesthetic, he says, mends very well with the architecture and history of Ellensburg. The warm brick walls mixed with the old wood floors mixes well with what he believes the Northwest Barbershop really represents: a throwback to traditional barbershop values, a stark industrial aura and a warm communal relationship that is present with each of his clients.

“I had to find the perfect location for it and this building just came into mind. It really fit naturally and organically here,” Gutierrez says.

Architecture aside, Gutierrez was also heavily appreciated by the community that was developing throughout Ellensburg. During his first few visits here, he was struck with an eerie similarity that he saw in his hometown of Toppenish, Washington. The community, he says, is also very welcoming of smaller businesses and he says that that is one of the reasons he feels that he’s been able to have the success that he’s had.

When Gutierrez first began setting up shop, he hadn’t the slightest idea of what the look, presence, layout or vision of the Northwest Barber shop was going to be – he had hardly even considered it. It was scary for him, especially considering how difficult starting up small businesses was after the economic recession. With only mere weeks before opening up shop, Jamie had nailed down the vision that would soon come to develop into what the Northwest Barbershop is today.

With a focus on classic barbershop ideals, with a touch of modern innovations, Gutierrez was able to find his place in making the shop a comforting, yet historically reflective place. Gutierrez also goes out of his way to purchase local, sometimes vintage items that he says really reflects the values and perspective that helped establish the shop. This is mirrored in the display mantles of his shop, wooden bases that sit at the base of each mirror and which all came from the same local tree, he says.

“That’s another thing I wanted to focus on, especially when designing the shop, I wanted someone to walk in, whether they were local or not and really not know how long It’s been here, whether it be one year or 15,” Gutierrez says. “I just wanted it to fit in with the history of Ellensburg.”

Gutierrez has also been working extensively with the Ellensburg Downtown Association (EDA), an organization that he says is helping Ellensburg to readjust the historical context to the growing population that’s surrounding the University. He puts a lot of work in with the organization, and feels that it really reflects what a growing, diverse community should look like.

Jamie serves many different faces and cuts many different hairstyles throughout Ellensburg. With this in mind, Gutierrez says that his clientele is reflective of the community; diverse and flexible. From 1 years old to 84, Jamie can cut them all.

“I don’t really focus on a specific demographic, and that’s one thing about Ellensburg, is that it’s very diverse; it’s diverse in age, it’s diverse in population,” Gutierrez says. “ That’s kinda the reason that I don’t play music in here, so that I don’t scare people away with my bad taste in music.”

Gutierrez’s relationship with his clients is one of the main reasons he cites for not pursuing expansion with the Northwest Barbershop brand.

“I’d really hate to neglect this shop,” Gutierrez says, in regards to opening a second shop. “What’s keeping me here is I [just] don’t want to lose the relationships here that I’ve built with my clients. I’m almost at a first name basis with everybody, and that’s something that I’ve really worked hard for.”

With Ellensburg growing quickly, Gutierrez hopes that he can only be as flexible as the city is, but is unsure of the future. When I asked him about the future of the Northwest Barbershop, Gutierrez says that that is really the most difficult question to answer. He hopes that he’s able to continue to grow with the city, as he has been the past couple years, and that he’s able to stay active within the community.