AK: Everyone is family at Gerry’s Barbershop

Gerry Carrillo Sr. sits in his barber’s chair at at his barbershop. He’s owned Gerry’s Barbershop for nearly 30 years. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO - Juneau)
Gerry Carrillo Sr. at his barbershop. He’s owned Gerry’s Barbershop for nearly 30 years. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO – Juneau)

Gerry’s Barbershop has been around for nearly three decades in Juneau.

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Owner Gerry Carrillo Sr. emigrated from the Philippines in the mid-1970s, when he was 16. He started the shop after he was laid off from a state job in the 1980s. Now, he runs the shop with his daughter, Eva, and his son, Gerry Jr.

They say that after awhile even the clients become family.

Gerry’s Barbershop occupies a little nook next to a pizzeria in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley suburb.

On a recent afternoon, the inside of the shop was loud — the music was up, conversations were going and the clippers were buzzing.

Here, it’s walk-ins only. A traditional cut, like a fade, is $18.

Eva is the oldest child. Covered in tattoos, with long black hair dominated by lime-green streaks, she’s full of laughter.

She has always loved doing hair and has worked alongside her dad for almost 10 years.

The trends come and go, she said.

“I did a lot of regular haircuts, and then the faux hawk came back,” she said. “And now I still do a lot of mohawks. I think it’s because I look like this, so they always come to me. But a lot of people have been getting old-fashioned haircuts, like the traditional comb-backs and the pompadours.”

Lots of kids have bookended their school careers with haircuts at the shop, from their first day of class to graduation.

Eva Carrillo cuts Kyle White’s hair at Gerry’s Barbershop. Kyle has been going to the shop since he was a kid. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO - Juneau)
Eva Carrillo cuts Kyle White’s hair at Gerry’s Barbershop. Kyle has been going to the shop since he was a kid. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO – Juneau)

Kyle White is one of them.

As he sat in Eva’s chair, White recalled visiting the shop as a kid: Gerry Sr. would tuck a Tootsie Roll behind his ear. If the young Kyle sat still for the cut, he got the candy.

As White grew up, he wanted a different hair style.

“I remember one time, I was like, ‘Hey Gerry, I think I’m going to do something different,’ and he was like, ‘No, you’re going to get the Kyle cut,’” White said. “And so I was like, ‘OK.’”

Eva let out a loud laugh.

“Typical,” she said, with a smile.

“‘No, no, no, you don’t want that.’ Like that?,” she asked, imitating her dad’s voice.

“Yeah, exactly,” White said. “‘You’ll get the Kyle cut.’ And then I just now started to get the faux hawk.”

Gerry Carrillo Jr. cuts David Mende’s hair. Gerry is the newest family member to work at Gerry’s Barbershop. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO - Juneau)
Gerry Carrillo Jr. cuts David Mende’s hair. Gerry is the newest family member to work at Gerry’s Barbershop. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO – Juneau)

Combing his hair up to cut the ends, Eva told White the style looks good on him.

White has checked out other shops in town, but he always comes back to Gerry’s.

“Sometimes when they’re closed, I go somewhere, and they always don’t get it right,” he said. “But you come here for so long, they know what I want.”

Gerry Jr.’s chair sits in the middle of the shop.

“I like to say that I beautify people,” he said.

His friends used to joke he’d end up working for his dad — he didn’t believe them. But now, Gerry Jr. is in his third year at the shop.

“I consider this like a family barbershop: grandpa will come and get a haircut, dad, grandson, sometimes great-grandson,” he said. “It’s hard. I guess working in a barbershop I feel like I don’t know how much time has passed by until someone comes in and I can see their hair.”

Gerry Sr. said haircuts will always be in demand.

“(At the time) the economy was low, and I figured, hair is growing, it’s always got a job for me to do,” he said.

Cutting hair is a tradition in his family.

“We got the blood of the barber,” he said. “My uncle was here first, long, long time ago, 1908 and he started a barbering business and he was very well-known in this town. … And  I decided to go to school as a barber and (as) it happened I had a good touch.”

The Carrillos say they become a part of their customers’ family, even if in a small way.

The trio has given people their first haircuts, and sometimes their last.

A photo of the Carrillo family sits on a shelf inside Gerry’s Barbershop. From left to right: Eva, Gerry Jr., and Gerry Sr. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO - Juneau)
A photo of the Carrillo family sits on a shelf inside Gerry’s Barbershop. From left to right: Eva, Gerry Jr., and Gerry Sr. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO – Juneau)

A couple of years ago, a customer asked Eva to cut his hair before cancer took it away.

“He came back a year later, looking better than he did when I cut his hair off, he had so much hair,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is that you?”… He’s doing really well.”

Over the span of two hours, an old high school friend stopped by, as well as a long-time customer who owns a pet grooming service in town, and a new regular.

The barbers cut hair to celebrate the good moments and honor the bad.

Near Gerry Sr.’s chair, toward the back of the shop, a black-and-white photo sits on a small bookshelf. In it, daughter, son and father are cutting hair. Gerry Jr. is sporting a handlebar mustache and has a large tattoo on his forearm. Written in cursive, it’s the family name, “Carrillos.”

But the trio make it clear that in their shop, family can be anybody.