Jeff Mahon runs classic barber shop in Lahaina
LAHAINA – A man of multiple talents, Jeff Mahon came home last year. This time his tools of trade were a straight razor, shears, scissors, electric clippers and a barber’s strap; and, now, West Siders, a barber’s pole is once again, after decades, on display in downtown Lahaina.
A Lahainaluna High School graduate, Class of ’83, Mahon’s first venture in the adult world was in the Army at Fort Bragg, California, where he served as a paratrooper from 1984 to 1988.
“I was trained in video production through the Army. I was with Special Operations Command, SOCOM. Most of my job was being attached as a camera man to a Special Forces team.”
He jumped with them, he said, “a lot in Central America during the civil wars over there.”
After his service to country, Mahon came home in 1988; his tool-of-trade was the video camera.
It was a small community at the time; and he worked, mostly as a freelancer, for familiar names like Venus and Alice and Dave Thomas and Rick Nava of Media Systems.
He worked in this capacity for 15 years on-island, moving to Las Vegas in 2004, doing production work there as well.
“But the economy got real bad; that was in ’05,” he said.
In a quick synopsis, he explained to the Lahaina News what led to his next stop: “My grandfather passed away in Indiana. My brother, sister and I bought his house, and my wife and I packed up and moved to Indiana; (we) were there ten years.”
In the meantime, an arm injury experienced during his paratrooper days flared up, and he couldn’t hold a camera anymore.
“I am actually a disabled veteran. I fought 20 years to get the disability, and they finally gave it to me. I have degenerative disc disease throughout my back, so the VA put me in the VOC Rehab Program.”
After a few stops and starts, one idea led to another with his VA counselor in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Mahon enrolled in barber’s college, the prestigious Ravenscroft Beauty and Barber College, where he graduated with honors after 1,500 hours.
“I was really apprehensive, really nervous; it was way out of my comfort zone. I just had never, ever, ever thought about cutting hair. I never even cut my son’s hair. It was something completely foreign to me; but my first day (in school), I knew this was it,” he said.
“After graduating, I apprenticed for a year-and-a-half under two master barbers in a classic barber shop,” he added.
But Maui was always on his mind.
“When I became a barber, I thought I want to go home and barber in Lahaina; I want to be a hometown barber. There hasn’t been one in Lahaina since I can remember.”
That’s when he started collecting authentic barber shop memorabilia and “stuffed it into a storage container and shipped it all over here.” In September 2015, he opened for service with a chair on the lower level of Hair Salon Limited, owned by Joan Davenport, under Mind’s Eye Interiors at 1068 Limahana Place.
And, over a year later, the 51-year-old has relocated to the loft of the Davenport salon, where he provides exclusive barbering services on the West Side.
What’s the difference between a barber and a hairstylist? Not much, but Mahon is proud.
“We learned 90 percent of what cosmetologists learn. We had to do perms. We had to do color. We had to do finger waves. We had to do a lot of women’s styling, because there’s really not much difference with hair.
“The difference between a barber and cosmetologist,” Mahon continued, “is – and this is what the barber industry has held on tight to – is technically the use of a straight razor. We’re the only ones licensed to use a straight razor, so I do a lot of shaves.”
And the barber’s pole, he observed: “You cannot display a barber’s pole or call yourself a barber unless you are a licensed barber.”
To Mahon, barbering is more than a career; it’s a culture.
His list of services includes classic barber cuts like pompadours, gentlemen’s cuts, fades, military/police high and tights and flat cuts; hot towel shaves; beard and mustache trims and shaping; scalp and facial massages; and men’s hair coloring.
“All haircuts include hot later neck shave and eyebrow trim, if needed,” his brochure reads.
Kama’aina prices start at $20 for a haircut and $40 for a hot towel shave.
Mahon feels right at home on the second level of the Davenport-owned salon.
She has mentored Mahon over the years.
“I have known Jeff since he was 19. I was his original hairdresser,” she said.
She encouraged him to come home.
“Our last official barber shop in Lahaina was in 1970; that was Gazmen’s, my father’s barber,” she commented.
Davenport described his talent: “He has a great eye for men’s haircuts. He does great art. Little does he know, but he’s very talented in his art. He’s just a good barber.”
Davenport was pleased that Mahon opened Lahainatowne Barber Shop in the loft above her shop; it’s a step back in time where quality means more than quantity.
“I’m a ’50s enthusiast. I have been since I was little. I love everything to do with the ’50s. I’ve always worn my hair that way, and now the styles are coming back,” Mahon said.
“I’ve collected everything. All of this is authentic,” he added.
Penny Wakida, one of Mahon’s former English teachers at Lahainaluna, was pleasantly surprised: “When Jeff offered to show me his newly located, yet-to-be-opened barber shop, I certainly wasn’t expecting this treasure! His new shop is a delightful museum of the ’50’s, including vintage customer chairs and a slew of old prints and posters.”
The Lahainatowne Barber Shop is now open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m
Reservations are highly recommended at 661-1690 or at his website, lahainatownebarbershop.com.