Downtown barber brothers offer classic shave, plus so much more

A glass window brings in people from the hallway in Canal Commons
Photo by Jessica Bagdovitz

Located in Canal Commons, at 193 W. 1st St., sits the only full service barber shop in Oswego.

Downtown Barber & Shave Co., owned by Keith Hawkins and Harrison Noel, offers a wide variety of services, ranging from Boy’s Haircuts to The Perfect Shave while providing each customer with amenities such as a hot towel, beverage, and personal TV screen.

Noel and Hawkins say their goal is simply to provide people with the best place for a haircut.

They want people to come in and love the look and feel of the place. The dark hardwood floors and the brick wall give off the perfect ambiance of a comforting old-fashioned shop with a modern twist.

Plush chairs, combined with TV screens and friendly service provide luxury service for a modest price. The barbers themselves are young men who actively engage in the Oswego community and who enjoy socializing. They say they are interested in nothing more than giving their customers the best experience possible in a lighthearted atmosphere, open to all ages.

“They do a good job. They are in a nice area, right down by the river. You can come in, listen to some tunes, and watch some sports, all while getting your hair cut” Oswego resident Mark Maniccia said. “My son likes to come here too, but he’s at school.”

The business first opened in April 2011 and has been thriving ever since, said the owners. Both Hawkins and Noel formerly worked at East Side Barbers where they gained experience in their trade.

After the passing of the owner of East Side Barber, their uncle, the two decided they were ready to take the next step becoming their own bosses.

“It was time for us to get out on our own and give it a go,” Noel said.

Both say they have had a passion for barbering ever since they were young.

“I have been cutting hair since I was 10 years old,” Noel said. “I was always cutting my friends hair for them. An older friend of mine would come and show me new hair styles and I would pick up little things from him. As I got older I found myself cutting hair everyday afterschool.”

After graduating from high school in Fulton, Noel went on to Shear Ego, a barber and beauty school in Rochester, N.Y., and also attended college at SUNY Brockport.

Hawkins, who also attended Shear Ego, was greatly impacted by his uncle. He remembers when he was young going down to Long Island where uncle gave him his first shave.

“I remember seeing him really enjoy what he did and how he treated his customers like friends- a lot of them were his friends- and the more we talked about it the more intrigued I was,” Hawkins said. I always told him that if he ever came up to Upstate New York I would love to work with him.”

Although Hawkins and Noel carried a substantial client base from East Side Barbers, they continue to strive to put themselves out there. They say they rely heavily on word of mouth from customers who love the place and recommend it to friends. But they also have a substantial ad campaign. In fact, they said they try to stay involved with the campus by donating multiple charities connected to the school and encourage Oswego State students to use their business as a hub for their own advertising.

When asked what sets them apart from other barber shops in the area, they cited their age.

“We have a little bit of our own style and we keep up on what young guys are interested in,” Hawkins said. “We see college kids from all around coming into the city with different style of haircuts and it sparks our interests.”

They mentioned that they must appeal to both older and younger crowds in the area and said that they have adapted their business to do just that.

When looking towards the future they said that they are not looking to settle and fully intend to expand and keep putting money into the shop. They would eventually like to fill the shop with a full staff of employees working under them, rather than the current roster of the two owners and one employee.

“Any time you start a business you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Hawkins said. “We took a big risk leaving the financial comfort of the old shop and we’re finally realizing how we’ve built a business and we can support ourselves and have provided a livelihood for each other. That’s our biggest achievement; we’ve built something that’s going to last in Oswego. We’re going to be here for a long time.”