Michele Park didn’t always want to cut hair and never dreamed she’d one day be the owner of Capitol Barbers here in Olympia. Originally from New York, Michelle’s family moved to California during her senior year of high school. Like a lot of teenagers, she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life after high school.
When her parents said she had to do something and offered to pay for cosmetology school, she decided to take them up on it. But after some time in the industry, Michele realized she didn’t enjoy the numerous perms and coloring treatments women commonly requested. So, when several of her friends made the decision to join the military, she followed suit and became a member of the Army in 1975. “While I was in [the Army], my skills came in handy because all the guys needed haircuts. The only problem was I could never get the type of haircut I needed myself! I ended up going to barbers because I wanted my hair short and precisely trimmed, how the military likes it.”
As is common for many soldiers, the Military became a career for Michele. She continued to cut hair on the side for friends and family but spent the next 25 years as a Medical Specialist Corp officer in the rehabilitation field treating wounded veterans from the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Fast forward to 2005. After 10 plus stateside moves and two overseas tours, Michele retired from the military, and chose to settle here with her family in Olympia. She also realized she no longer wanted to continue to work in the stressful rehabilitation field.
It was time to do something new. Using her GI bill Michele decided barber school was the right fit. “It seemed like a natural thing for me to do, kind of like a 360 – coming full circle.”
Although it requires fewer hours than cosmetology school, there were a lot of new techniques to learn involving cutting, razors, beards and a different clientele. “Having done both cosmetology and barber school, there is a difference in how hair is cut and styled it has to be so very precise and blended with men. With all the styling, perming and coloring women do, our hair tends to be a bit more forgiving.”
While attending barber school, Michele met her future barber partner, Dawn Bauer, who was also attending in hopes of a new career. Originally from Mongolia, Dawn moved to the United States as a non-English speaker seeking a new life. She had worked in restaurants for many years before deciding to attend barber school. She knew it would be a quick skill she could learn. “I used to cut my brother’s hair growing up. He originally started cutting hair and then taught me, so I used to cut his friend’s hair.” Dawn loves to do free hand hair carvings like the Seahawks logo as well as full service cuts and shaves.
Dawn explains how she receives just as much out of the process as her clients do. “I really enjoy doing it. It makes me calm. I don’t need to rush. I get to do something with my hands and make someone feel better and look good,” she says.
Michele and Dawn both say they want to bring back the barber shops of the past, when time seemed to move a little slower. A time when people would gather at the local barber shop and have easy conversation while also getting a great haircut. “We focus on the old-world style – doing things the old way in a community setting. Every haircut gets a steamed towel clean-up and a hot lather straight razor neck line up. “That’s what I saw growing up, Dad got a shave and haircut and it took a little time.” shares Michele. She hopes to recreate some of that nostalgia in her own shop. Today Capitol Barbers in a full service shop specializing in haircuts and hot steam towel straight razor shaves.
And, that’s one of the reasons the partners chose the location for Capitol Barbers in a neighborhood. Located just off Capitol Way, across from the Frog Pond Grocery, guests don’t have to pay for parking and can even pick-up a delicious treat from Abby’s Cookies and Cupcakes in the same building. Once inside the completely renovated space, clients can relax with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the flat screen television, taking some time to just relax. And don’t be surprised to see Olivia, the shop mascot English bulldog, hanging around the shop on any given day. She’s quick to greet new friends with a wag of the tail and a gentle sniff.
On the wall, you’ll find a list of services offered and their prices. I was happily surprised to see they offer children’s haircuts at a very reasonable price.“Both of us being parents, we understand It’s hard when kids are young to pay twenty-something for a haircut when two weeks later it’s already grown out. So, what we have here is really something different., kids pay their age. If they’re five, it’s five bucks.” But the shop isn’t just for men and children. “All short haired women should come here. All the women that like to include shaving all or part of their head, or close precise lines should also come. I think its hard for women who like short hair to find the right cutter in the right environment, one that is equally as comfortable for them as it is for men, It’s us we get it! “
Starting a new business hasn’t been without challenges, but Dawn and Michele show up everyday, open their doors, ready to share their talents with the community. Every customer who walks in will get the same special treatment. “We want people to come back. When people come in, they leave happy – they love it. Then, they tell someone else and they come in, too.”
Capitol Barbers is located at 108 22nd Ave. SW in the Olympia Professionals Building and is open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. With wedding season right around the corner, it would be a great place for a group of groomsmen to get in tip top shape for the special day.
Call 360-350-0112 to make an appointment and walk-ins are always welcome.