Square Deal

Photos by Kamala Kirk

John Halminski has vivid and fond memories of riding his bike at 13, working as a paperboy for the South Pasadena Review, and hanging out in his dad’s barbershop. Halminksi would sweep the floors while listening to the interesting conversations that his dad would have with customers. He said he learned a lot from his father at a young age.

“My dad always told me that you have to treat everyone equally,” said Halminski. “His customers came from a variety of backgrounds and occupations. He had doctors, electricians, bricklayers, carpenters—it didn’t matter who a person was, if they were sitting in his barber chair, he knew how to treat everybody equally. I learned a lot from just sitting in his shop as a kid.”

Halminski is the third generation in his family to own the same barbershop on Mission Street. His grandfather William, who was a Polish immigrant, started the business in 1925 and named it The Square Deal, which was inspired by Teddy Roosevelt. Then in the ‘70s, Halminski’s dad renamed it as Hal’s Barbershop, which was his nickname.

In 1992, Halminski inherited the shop after his father passed away, and for many years rented it out to a friend who was a barber. Back then the store was divided into two units, with one half being the barbershop and the other half rented out to various retail spaces.

“I wanted to be a barber because it’s an art, and I always enjoyed watching my father do it,” Halminski said. “But he told me ‘no.’ He said that I wouldn’t want to be standing on my feet for the rest of my life and have back problems. He told me to get a degree instead, because no one could ever take that away from me. So I became a city planner instead, and now that I own the shop, I have the best of both worlds. I love to come here all the time and engage with the customers.”

John Halminski

Last January, Halminski sat down with his wife, who also works as a hairdresser, and decided it was time to do something new with the shop. He renamed it Square Deal Barber Shop & Lounge, then spent four months remodeling. He removed the center wall that divided the shop into two halves, creating one-open space. Other upgrades included a new roof, plumbing and electrical, as well as a spacious backyard lounge that includes a flat screen television.

“I decided to bring back the original Square Deal name that my grandfather had started out with, and added a few touches of my own,” said Halminski. “My dad and I kept bees back here as a hobby, but the space was never used to its fullest potential. The bones of the building have been kept the same, while the image has slightly changed a bit. It’s a mix of the old school and new school barbershop.”

The newly renovated Square Deal Barber Shop & Lounge opened its doors to the public in August 2018 and was welcomed with open arms. A lot of people that used to come in back when Halminski’s dad owned the shop were happy to come back to a familiar place that held so many memories for them. Speaking of memories, Halminski lined the walls with pictures of his father and grandpa, along with charcoal caricatures of his father working in the shop that were made in Tijuana, and he decorated throughout with the barber shop’s old memorabilia, including a six-foot barber pole made from redwood, a restored classic Marvy Barber Pole that spins, and an old cash register that is more than a 100-years old.

Square Deal Barber Shop & Lounge offers haircuts and gentleman’s cuts using both classic and modern techniques, including the old traditional shave with a hot towel. Haircuts cost $20 for kids 12 and under and are $35 for adults. On average, the shop has three to four barbers working per day, and while walk-ins are welcome, it is recommended that customers use the online booking system Fresha to make an appointment — especially on Saturdays, which is the busiest day of the week.

“The bottom line is that this is a community barber shop,” said Halminski. “We want to serve as many people in the surrounding community as we can, and we want to please everybody. I’m not a barber but this is my passion. I felt in my heart that I had to bring this barber shop back to the community. I want everyone that comes in here to feel at home. I love it when people stop and read the history board we have outside, then I get to tell them the story and explain why we’re here.”

Square Deal Barber Shop & Lounge is located at 1108 Mission St. in South Pasadena. It is open Mon. –  Sun. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (626) 524-1108 or visit www.squaredealbarber.com.

Square Deal Barber Shop & Lounge Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 2.8.19. Support Local Business.