There are several reasons you go to a barbershop. Maybe you want a new look, or just the same old style you’ve had for years. Bottom line, your hair is getting shaggy and you want to look fresh and clean again. There’s also something else you get in going to a barbershop—the experience. It’s a chance to relax and enjoy some camaraderie, a welcome break in your daily routine. This is the type of environment offered at Ed’s Barber Shoppe. It’s a true neighborhood business, owned by a local who knows how to make his clients feel comfortable.
Cutting hair is a craft like any other. It requires technique, attention to detail, and creativity. Owner Ed Torres and his associate, Brandon Michael Heary, take pride in the refinement and style that go into their work. Most importantly, they know how to listen to their customers. Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s an old school pompadour, a simple trim, or a hairstyle that is unique to you, they do the job you want and do it well. For these barbers, it’s all about making people look and feel good everyday.
Every haircut from Ed Torres is a great deal—25 years of experience for only $13. From our interview, it’s obvious that Ed has a sense of tradition when it comes to being a barber. He’s also aware of how barbershops can fill a social niche in the community. Moreover, Ed runs a successful shop because he’s down-to-earth and treats clients with respect.
What motivated you to open your own barbershop? My uncle was a barber for many years, and seeing him working is what got me started. From the age of 12, I would play around inside his shop, and prior to his passing in ’99 I spent a lot of time there. Once I graduated high school I got my barber’s license. I worked for a friend of mine in the Northeast for about 11 years before opening up my own place. I had several different shops throughout Philly and Pennsylvania, and eventually came back here. This is home to me. I grew up in Northern Liberties, and I feel comfortable in this area. There’re a lot of guys I went to grade school and high school with around here.
What are your roles and responsibilities at the shop? To provide a good service to my customers. They are number one. I try to understand what they need and give it to them exactly how they want it. The key to this is listening. You have to be a great listener to be a barber. At the same time you have to become a therapist for whoever sits in your chair, and give good advice. I know I can give good advice because I’ve been through a lot in the past, and because I’ve been cutting hair for 25 years. I want this place to be like home—very relaxed, very comfortable. I want the guys to be able to feel free to speak, not only to me, but to the other clients in here as well. It’s going to be four years since we’ve opened, and that’s exactly where we’re at right now. As the owner, another one of my responsibilities is to pass on my knowledge and skills to someone who’s willing to go as far as I’ve gone in this field. My co-worker, Brandon Michael Heary, has worked here for the past year, and he’s picked up a lot.
How do you and Brandon collaborate to make this a successful business? Brandon is a lot younger than I am, but we have great communication and a great connection. He knows what I’m going to say even before I say it, and he knows where we need to be with the business. We don’t relate to each other as boss-employee, but as friends and family. It’s been like that since day one, which is hard to come by.
There’s an interesting arrangement of items on the counter at your work station. Can you talk about this? It’s keeping true to my heritage. My family is from a small town in Puerto Rico, Lares. It carries its own flag, apart from the national flag. Don Q is a type of rum produced in Puerto Rico, which is making its way to the U.S. The lion is my zodiac sign, and has many other meanings in my life. There’s a lion on my business card, and a tattoo of one on my back. The tattoo has been there for 17 years, and it’ll stay there forever. In the future we’ll be adding the lion design to the front of our shop.
What is the basis behind the shop’s motto, “Old School Style, Expert Modern Cuts?” Old school style is what my uncle taught me—pompadours, Ivy League cuts, all the older styles. That’s what I grew up watching and learning how to do. I picked up the modern styles—the fades, the blow outs—and combine them with the old. I’ll do pompadours with the blow out. It’s great to mix an old style with a new look—that’s what we do here. What is the most unusual request you’ve had for a haircut? We had a guy come in and ask for a pepperoni pizza design on the back of his head. He’s the guy that owns Pizza Brain, Brian Dwyer. So far he’s been the only client that has really caught me off guard.
What is your impression of Fishtown? It’s changed a lot, and I like the direction it’s headed. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to pass 2nd Street and come into Fishtown, and now here I am owning a business in Fishtown. It’s come a long way and I’m enjoying it. I hate to describe it with the cliché of “melting pot”, but that’s exactly what it is—so many different nationalities come in through our doors. That’s what I wanted when I opened up. I wanted everyone to be comfortable with each other, and it’s been working out.
© Steven Sparber and Fishtown Spotlights, 2012. All rights reserved.