When you go get your hair cut at Mac’s Barber Shop in California Heights, it’s like stepping back in time.
It has an old-fashioned 1950s look – with a bright checkered tiled floor, three old-fashioned barber poles, vintage posters promoting hair tonics, a chewing-gum machine, an antique payphone and even a fridge with a Frostie root beer sign on the door (and sodas inside for thirsty customers).
In the cozy center of the 12-by-12-foot shop sits a solitary barber chair in glossy green vinyl. If you’re lucky, you’ll also meet Nicholas, a handsome Persian cat who is shy around strangers and can be out of sight. A display case on the wall with tiki mugs was made by the owner’s great-grandfather 80 years ago.
You will be the owner and the only barber the shop has had for 25 years – Gregory (Gregg) MacCormack. Be ready for a good haircut and a friendly chat.
On Thursday, Jan. 5, MacCormack celebrated a milestone, the exact day he opened his one-man boutique in 1998 in historic California Heights at 915 E. Wardlow Road. It is estimated that he did over 25,000 haircuts during this time.
“It’s been a lot of work for myself, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” MacCormack told me last week when I visited him. Sporting a casual cabana shirt and flat Irish hat, he added: “My customers are so nice. I love talking with them and giving them the best haircut possible. Whoever is sitting in this chair at any given time is my boss.
One such boss is Daniel Madrid, a longshoreman from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, who has had his hair cut by MacCormack for 23 years.
“He’s a down to earth guy,” Madrid said. “Not only is he a great barber, but he has become a friend.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when MacCormack had to close his store, he visited some people’s homes to keep their hair in good condition, Madrid said. “A lot of us know each other because we all go to Mac,” Madrid said. “We are like a family.”
For a time, MacCormack also got a portable barber chair and cut his customers’ hair on the sidewalk outside his store.
MacCormack said he wanted to thank the people of California Heights for supporting him all these years. “They were just great with me. I appreciate them all,” he said.
MacCormack, 58, was born Dec. 29, 1964, in Hawthorne, but moved early to Buena Park near Knott’s Berry Farm. His father worked in the aerospace industry doing chemical grinding. Her mother was a nurse. He has a younger sister, Mandy MacCormack, who works in the country western music business in Nashville, Tennessee.
While at Kennedy High School in La Palma, MacCormack said he wanted to be a drummer in a band. “But I wasn’t very good, so I gave up,” he said.
After high school, he worked at various jobs, including at the Vons supermarket and at a body shop in Cypress. He moved to Belmont Heights in Long Beach in 1988 where he did chemical grinding for McDonnell Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 1997. He worked on the C-17 military cargo plane, all of which were built in Long Beach.
He said he was laid off at McDonnell Douglas but the company had a retraining allowance that allowed him to attend Rosston Barber College in downtown Long Beach.
“In high school and after it was the era of the punk rock scene and the mod scene in England and hair styles were making fashion statements, but I didn’t pursue a career in barbering until the laid off at McDonnell Douglas,” he said.
He got his barber’s license – but said he was nearly expelled from barber school when he caught chickenpox from a little boy whose hair he was cutting.
“His mom knew her son had chickenpox, but she didn’t tell anyone,” MacCormack said. “My instructor found out, and I got it too. I had to leave for two weeks. The school almost released me, but they let me stay and finish.
He worked in two other hair salons before deciding to open his own salon. The location at 915 Wardlow used to be a children’s clothing store, but it had closed and the store was vacant. Interestingly, as MacCormack tried to turn the store into a barbershop, he discovered that it was a barbershop from 1948 to 1978. The building itself, which has other tenants, has nearly 100 years, he said.
MacCormack said he had the idea of being a barber, but didn’t really have a business plan for how to make it work when he opened on January 5, 1998.
Fortunately, he was able to earn some extra money by working at Boeing at night while cutting his hair during the day.
Gradually, customers came to his shop, responding by word of mouth, and his business began to grow. Her clients now range from a 10-year-old boy to a 98-year-old man. He charges $25 for each haircut. He said the most popular cut is the fade which is a cutting technique that tapers the hair so that it eventually “fades” into the skin. The hair is longer on top and is gradually shaved closer to the sides and neck.
What does MacCormack do in his spare time?
One of his favorite activities is biking in Southern California, sometimes going 30 to 50 miles back and forth. “I just did a 48 mile ride the other day,” he said. “Some of my rides are with three friends I’ve known since high school.”
What does MacCormack do when he gets sick?
He said he didn’t get sick often, but when he did, he temporarily closed his store. He takes clients by appointment only.
His most serious illness came about 15 years ago when he underwent surgery for a double hernia. “My doctor told me I had to take a month or more off, but I told him I was a barber, not a doctor, and had to go back to work,” he said. “I went back after taking 10 days off.
MacCormack’s sister Mandy said her brother had had his share of struggles in recent years but always found a way to keep his business going.
“We lost both of our parents in 2019 and then it had to close during the pandemic,” she said in an email to Press-Telegram, suggesting that a story about her brother and how he made it in as a small entrepreneur would be interesting. say.
“I think it’s important for you to know that you have an exceptional man who has run a great barbershop that has been open to the community for 25 years,” she said. “In today’s world, that’s heroic. Mac’s Barber Shop represents everything good in your town.