Barber poles go dark, chairs empty in mandated shutdown

Danny Moore, owner of the Plaza Barber Shop in Ontario, gives Lowell Davis of Fruitland a haircut. Moore’s business is currently closed due to state orders. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

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ONTARIO – Over 11 years, Danny Moore learned a lot about his community.

Since the day he opened Plaza Barbershop on Southwest Fourth Avenue, Moore had a good seat to observe and listen to local folks.

He’s heard tall tales and hard truths. He’s cut the hair of children and then watched them grow into teenagers and then young adults. He’s seen the good and listened to the bad and become a familiar piece of the hometown fabric.

And last Tuesday, following the orders of Gov. Kate Brown that all barbers and hairdressing businesses in the state close in response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, he turned off his barber pole, dropped the shade on the big windows of his shop and locked the door.

“I know it is something we are going to have to do. I know we need to be cautious,” said Moore.

He doesn’t know when he will reopen. As a small business owner though, he understands closing his shop will make an immediate impact.

Last week, Moore said he sat down and “penciled out” the financial hit he will take. As a small business, his margins are thin and when he reviewed the financial projections the numbers didn’t lie.

“I can’t afford to lose any time off work,” he said. “Any little bit of cushion we had will be gone.”

Moore – who said on a good week he averages about 20 haircuts a day – said even before the governor’s order, he saw a drop in his business.

 “Last week I was down a few hundred for the whole week,” he said.

He arrives at his shop Tuesday through Saturday between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. but if he is early and people are already waiting, he opens.

His customers, he said, are what make his job so rewarding.

Moore can count on a steady stream of “regulars” who arrive alone or in pairs. His shop, adorned with memorabilia – paintings and Harley Davidson posters – speaks to Moore’s hobbies and conjures up an awareness of the past.

His shop is a small, quiet place that hosts people from a variety of jobs and backgrounds. Customers can rest in a row of chairs below a big picture window while Moore cuts hair in the barber chair and the conversation can drift from politics to motorcycles and cars to hunting.

“I like the interaction,” said Moore.

Moore, who began as a barber 14 years ago, said last week he wasn’t sure of his plans after he puts the clippers away.

Maybe he will look for work locally. Maybe at a grocery store. Or a dairy. Maybe, he said, he will put more time into a part-time upholstery business he has nurtured over the years.

He isn’t sure.

As a father of four and a husband, he said he isn’t above working anywhere to get his family through the COVID-19 crisis. But he will miss his shop and his customers.

He said his customer base is loyal. An incident recently personified that commitment, said Moore.

One of his regulars offered “a couple hundred dollars while this thing is going on,” said Moore.

“Now how do you like that?” asked Moore.

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