With hair product instead of booze bottles, and scissors instead of a six-shooter, Doran Amatto’s saloon is a bit different to any other. But then, his shop at the corner of 16th Avenue and Canyon Street is called the Barber Saloon.
The refurbished travel trailer, with its wood siding and red, white and blue barber poles, looks like a miniature throwback to the Wild West. It’s been open for a few weeks, since Amatto arrived in Creston, calling it home after returning to the Kootenays following several years in Kelowna.
“A saloon motif would fit into anywhere I went,” he said. “And it’s masculine.”
Appealing to men is key to having a barbershop. For most women, a new do is a planned event; for men, the process is much simpler.
“When men get a haircut, it’s usually spur-of-the-moment,” Amatto said. “Most men just come in and say, ‘Make it short.’ ”
The profession is nothing new to Amatto. He grew up in Nelson, where his father owned a barber shop, Razor’s Edge, above the dry cleaner, as well as an ice cream shop at corner of Stanley and Baker streets, where it can be seen in the 1987 film, Roxanne. (Amatto was also behind the scenes during filming around Nelson, working as a night guard for the North Shore exterior set built for Housekeeping in 1986.)
“I spent my childhood watching my old man cut hair,” he said. “Cutting hair just became second nature.”
Although he eventually studied barbering in New Brunswick, Amatto wasn’t interested as a teenager, and bought a van to cruise to every Canadian province and territory, eventually working backstage on two tours with Stompin’ Tom Connors.
“I’m not a country fan, but I like Stompin’ Tom because he’s funny,” he said.
Amatto has also been a woodworker, selling log furniture at a roadside stand in Balfour and running a larger shop in Kelowna for several years. And he’s restored antique boats.
But the social jobs — bartending, waitering and even pulling a rickshaw — are the ones he enjoys most. Beyond that, he appreciates the chance to be creative, which woodworking, restoring boats and cutting hair allow.
“I’ve got to create, and doing hair cutting falls into that category,” Amatto said. “You’ve got to read a person’s face, the shape of their face and the way their hair grows.”
Amatto’s Barber Saloon, which made its debut in Balfour earlier this year, isn’t the first travel trailer he’s adapted to a new purpose — he’s also created a hotdog stand, a barbecue restaurant and a ski/snowboard tuning shop.
“If I see something and go, ‘Wow, that’s cool. I’m gonna do it,’ I usually start about ten minutes after the idea pops into my head,” he said.
The Barber Saloon will see a few changes in the near future, with a deck soon to be added, making the new shop look like a more permanent part of Amatto’s new home.
“I wanted to find a town I would like to live in that wasn’t too big,” he said. “I don’t want to live in Kelowna, I don’t want to live in Nelson.
“I’m still a Kootenay guy. I’ve got my mountains and I’ve got my lake.”