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Interview with Ray Francom from Ray’s Barbershop SLC

In need of a haircut or fresh shave before your company Christmas party this year? Ray’s Barbershop has got you covered with 3 locations, ranging from the far east side of SLC, through downtown, and up to Ogden.

The barbershop is a place for men to hang out, network (think Twitter before the days of the internet), and escape the stresses of everyday life while being pampered for a little while. Ray’s has been called “The Best Haircut in Salt Lake City”, so we talked to Ray for a bit to get some more background on his experience in the barbershop industry and find out what brought him to Utah.

Tell us about yourself. What brought you to Utah and why have you decided to stay?
My story begins when I was 15 years of age my dad decided it would be a good idea to teach me the skill of barbering (my dad also being a barber). So I learned as much as I possible could from him but I could not get my license through his training so I would attend Cosmetology school in Ogden at the Weber ATC every summer between my high school years. At that time the licensing was not separate from the beauty license as it has become today. So even though I knew I wanted to focus on barbering I had to learn and pass my tests in performing perms, and hair coloring among other beauty services. I finally got my license when I was 18 and then shortly after left on an LDS mission to Jamaica where for the next two years I still used my barbering skills to cut other missionaries hair and even some Jamaicans. When I returned home I moved to Utah to attend the University of Utah with the thought that I would major in Architecture. This is something I always thought would be my future career and barbering would just be a back up trade in case I ever became unemployed. After two years of school I decided to change directions and made Barbering my full time work. When I turned 25 I found an abandoned barber shop closer to home and wondered if I could possible open this shop up and make it work for me. That was my original location which was only had room enough for 3 chairs. I worked there alone for the first year and a half and then eventually started hiring other barbers to fill the other two chairs. We eventually got busy enough where I decided to expand the shop to a 9 chair shop. 3 years after that I opened the 12 chair shop downtown and 2 years later opened the Ogden Shop which is still fairly new and still growing.

What do you remember about going to the barber as a kid?
When it comes to my memories of what I remember most about visiting the barber shop as a kid, is going to be a little different from what others might have. As I mentioned before my dad was a barber and so was my grandfather and the two of them worked out of the same shop in Green River, Wyoming. Their shop was right across the street from where we lived and so I remember getting haircuts very often and also having no say in what kind of haircut I got. I also remember that if a paying customer walked in while I was in the middle of getting my haircut then I had to jump out of the barber chair no matter what stage my haircut was in and wait till business died down again. I also had the job of cleaning that barber shop so I remember emptying out the ash trays and sweeping all the hair.

You have three locations for your shops now. How has the process of expanding been? Any plans for future expansion?
I have been growing and expanding Ray’s Barber Shop right now I am in the process again. I am working with a beauty school from Payson called American Beauty Academy to open another location in Murray, and at this location we will be adding a barbering program to go along with the cosmetology program. I am really excited about this as I really enjoy teaching and showing other the craft of barbering as it is truly an art form. I have worked with apprentices in the past but by developing a full blown barbering program I am excited to be a part of the history being made in this profession.

It says on your website, Ray’s is “a place to escape and be pampered” – What are some of the ways you fulfill that promise to your customers?
I have taken a lot of pride in keeping the barber shops that we have opened to the traditional roots that I experienced in my dad’s barber shop. I think when we say the we create a place to escape and be pampered we truly give our customers that experience. When we get a customer in the barber chair it is possibly the only time where they sit down and just relax without the distractions of cell phones and life in general. One of my favorite part about this business is that when we are finished with the haircut you can just tell how good it makes the customer feel. I don’t mean to sound too philosophical but I think there is something about getting a new haircut that renews a person. It builds confidence from within and it makes them feel like they can conquer the world, kind of like when you get a new pair of shoes and you feel like you are walking on air.

Any interesting trends in men’s grooming over the last several years?
Over the twenty years that I have been barbering I have seen styles come and go, when I first started cutting hair I would be working and remember this was in the mid 90’s but I would literally be cutting bowl cut after bowl cut. Then I have observed style shift to the Cesar haircut to the Shag then onto the Blow Out, then the Fuax Hawk and as of lately we have seen the side part come back very strong. But over all those changes there is always going to be haircuts that stand the test of time such as a business mans cut. The cool thing about barbering is no head of hair is the same, dealing with different hair patterns, hair types, and cowlicks always make each haircut interesting and as long as you understand the traditional barbering techniques you can face any haircut or style that might come your way.

We are both working on growing out our beards. Any advice for maintaining a nice healthy beard?
I have noticed the beard trend that has come on strong the last year or so. In my years of barbering I have never done so many beard trims as we are currently doing. As far as beard grooming tips I would advise anyone who has already grown a beard or those who might be growing one out to keep it trimmed to maintain the health of the hair follicle. Just as we do with the hair on our heads as we grown it out it always stays healthier to keep it trimmed so that the hair follicle doesn’t split. I also encourage using a beard oil we have been working with local suppliers my favorites are Wild Bills and Barton’s. By using the beard oil it will help to condition the beard which result in better control and a softer feel to the hair.

Any advice to aspiring barbers or small business owners in the Salt Lake Valley in general?
For those aspiring barbers or small business owners out their, I have so much respect for what you are trying to do. Being a small business owner is not easy at all and no one really knows about the late hours you spend on your business and all the stress and work that you put into making it happen. But it is also one of the most rewarding experiences to see how something that was just a thought or even a dream can become a reality. Small business is what really makes this country so great and I applaud anyone who desires or is currently in this venture. Just never give up and keep dreaming!

You can check out Ray’s Barbershop online at their website and also at their Facebook page.

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Published on: December 17, 2014
Written by: gsl clothing
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