Native Pittsburgh barber hopes to give Northsiders haircuts and one-on-one experiences
By: Neil Strebig
An hour and half before Bradly Richards opens the doors to his shop he sits on a wooden bench in the parlor’s waiting room, stuffing petite plastic jars – the kind you find in a retro 25-cent candy dispenser – with pomade from Anchors Aweigh and Shear Revival.
Richards jokes he’s a terrible salesman, but this gesture is his way of introducing guests to two products he strongly believes in. They both happen to be one-person companies much like The Humble Barber Company.
“I hope they [customers] are able to walk away feeling better about the way they look and equipped with the information on how to recreate that look, if they choose,” said Richards.
The last stinger, “if they choose” is an extension of Richard’s personality, a sense of genuine care towards the client’s experience without any pushy salesmanship. That’s when you begin to notice there’s something different about The Humble Barber Company.
Perhaps it is the picket fence patrons have to open before entering into the waiting room, the eclectic playlist ranging from The B-52s to Johnny Cash to feminist punk groups like Le Tigre, the reserve of Black Label beer in the fridge or maybe it’s the shocking notion a half dozen grown men are waiting hours for a new haircut.
“I’m shocked and confused that people will wait,” said Richards. He jests there a number of places customers can go for a better haircut, but admits it is flattering to see patrons display such patience. “When people spend time here, it is pretty nice.”
Richards, who previously owned and operated The Vault Coffee and Tea Bar on California Avenue, left the specialty coffee world after 17 years to take an apprenticeship under Ray Mustovic.
After graduating from the Barber School of Pittsburgh, Richards worked under Mustovic for five months. Mustovic, who passed away a year and a half ago, and his shop served as a source of inspiration for Richards’ own business.
“I love the vibe of being a single-chair shop with one guy there to cut your hair. That’s what Ray’s was and I was in love with Ray’s. It is the thing I try to emulate and live up to.”
When asked about how he came up with the name, Richards is quick to extend credit to his friend, Colin Miller who helped create not just the barbershop’s name, but also its logo and catch phrase: ‘Speak softly, work hard.’
“I want a humble little place that my dad or grandfather would’ve gone to where everyone is welcomed; [a place] where you would go, come in, hang out and be comfortable. And that’s what I really tried for is to make this an encompassing, welcoming place,” said Richards.
The Humble Barber Company is a walk-in only location where Richards takes approximately 16 to 19 customers per day. The goal was to always have an inviting one-chair shop with a level of intimacy, where the attention is focused not on the waiting room, but rather the guest in the chair.
“Instead of working the room, I really try to work the person in the chair and see what’s going on. It is your time.”
Currently The Humble Barber Company is nominated for a “Best Barber” Award in part of the Pittsburgh City Paper’s “Best of” series. A nomination Richards is flattered by, yet he still doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“I’m not magic, I’m a guy. I only went to Ray. Ray was my barber. When Ray passed away a year and half ago and I’ve not had decent hair cut since. I’ve been cutting my own hair and its awful. So, I found a few barbers that I’m comfortable with, but it is still not Ray’s haircut. So, I figured if you can find three people you’re comfortable with – you can have an A, B and C team – its fine. I think having more than one place is a smart thing for 2017.”
Modest words from a humble barber.
The Humble Barber Company is open Monday to Wednesday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit their website.