Trimmings and tradition at Vancouver barber shop

Third generation of Wright family takes helm at Cecil's

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Cecil's Barber Shop

Owner: Kristin Wright.

Barbers: Kristin Wright, owner; Debbie Wright Packer; Rollie Mayberry and Kimberly Henne.

Phone: 360-693-2621.

Address: 16209 S.E. McGillivary Blvd., Suite D, Vancouver.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

When he was a kid in the 1920s, Cecil Wright worked in a barber shop sweeping up after haircuts. As each day progressed and the barber got too drunk to be trusted with scissors, Wright stepped in and cut hair the rest of the day.

He learned he had a knack for barbering ­— both cutting hair and chatting with customers.

In 1944, during World War II, Wright opened Cecil’s Barber Shop on Vancouver’s Grand and Evergreen boulevards. He was a barber by day and a welder in the Kaiser Shipyards at night. He moved his shop to what was then the new Tower Mall on McLoughlin Heights in 1971. Daughter Debbie Wright Packer, now 61, worked alongside her father and then bought the shop in 1979. Cecil died in 1993.

Last month, Cecil’s Barber Shop passed to the family’s third generation when Kristin Wright, 30, took over the business.

She is married to Nick Wright, Cecil’s grandson and Debbie’s son. The two met after high school, and when her future mother-in-law suggested barbering, Kristin realized that like Cecil and Debbie, she had a knack for it.

Times have changed, but Cecil’s original barber pole still turns in the front window at the shop’s new location, and his sign illustrating the trendiest men’s haircuts from the 1950s adorns the wall. Wright orchestrated the shop’s move to the renovated space near 164th Avenue, already putting her personal imprint on the family business.

At the old Tower Mall location, the shop had attracted few walk-in customers because the mall had evolved from retail to government agency offices.

At 1,140 square feet, the new Cecil’s is more than double the size of the old shop. It’s in a high-traffic area on McGillivray Boulevard one block west of 164th Avenue and across the street from New Seasons Market.

“The biggest challenge in making the move was working at the old shop and, at the same time, doing the construction on the new shop,” said Wright, who laid the new floor herself.

Three generations

For decades, three generations of the Gulliford men have been coming to Cecil’s. On Monday, Jim Gulliford, 74, met his son, Jeff Gulliford, 47, and his two grandsons, Josh, 16 and Andrew, 11, at Cecil’s. Andrew, who will be a sixth-grader at Shahala Middle School this fall, came in to have Wright cut his hair. Andrew’s dad, Jeff, had his first haircut from Cecil. Cecil cut his grandpa’s hair, too.

Wright says such long-term business relationships are what makes Cecil’s a success. “One of the great things about our shop is that Vancouver is still a small town,” Wright said. “Customers run into old friends here.”

Because their job engages them in conversation, barbers must be skilled at more than cutting hair, Packer said. “Barbers are happy people. It’s not a job with a lot of stress, but we avoid talking politics and religion.”

That’s true of Rollie Mayberry, 72, a long-time friend of Cecil’s, who sold his own barber shop but wasn’t ready to retire. Now he cuts hair four days a week at the new Cecil’s. He’s had some of the same customers for 40 years. When his aging customers become homebound and can’t make it to the shop, Mayberry makes house calls.

“I love being a barber,” Mayberry said. “We build relationships with our customers.”

Last week, he cut the hair of NFL kicker Rian Lindell of the Buffalo Bills. Lindell, a Vancouver native, has been getting his hair cut by Mayberry since he was 6. Now he stops in to have Mayberry cut his hair whenever he’s in town to visit his mom.

In the 1960s and 70s when boys and men started growing their hair longer and not getting it cut as often, barbers struggled to make a living, Mayberry said.

“Cecil was one of the first barbers to style men’s long hair,” Mayberry said. “Other barbers would come to Cecil and learn how to do it. It saved us.”

Although Kristin Wright never met the man who started the shop she now owns, his memory lives on in the black-and-white photos of Cecil cutting hair in 1947 that are on display near the shop’s front door. Nearly two decades after Cecil’s death, his spirit lives on in the new Cecil’s.