It’s a thing, people pursuing long-held dreams in the wake of COVID-19 — either pivoting (the most over-used word of 2020?), (re)schooling, or taking a leap into the wild unknown to do something they’ve “always wanted to do” but never had the means, courage, circumstances, or… (fill in the blank) to achieve.
It was a bit of all of the above for Shane Boyd who, having just turned 40, decided to take advantage of the COVID disruption to go back to school to get the training he needed to open his own barbershop. He can remember his father taking him to an old-school barber on the east side of Vancouver, and that kindled a spark that remained alight all these years. “This was a dream I started right after high school, but unfortunately I never finished the program,” says Shane.
Having opened his new business on March 2, 2021, Shane is now living the dream. Ocean Pacific Barber Co. on Beach Road in Qualicum Beach is a “gender-neutral” barbershop, and so far Shane has had customers ranging in age from 18 months to 92 years, and pretty much every decade in between.
Why Qualicum Beach? “QB lent itself to the sort of brand I wanted to build,” says Shane. “I fell in love with the town and the vibe of its residents long ago, and knew this was where I wanted to build this life of ours. After much deliberation with my family, we decided that I would go after this [dream] again and finish what I started.” Shane and his wife Meredith (Merri) moved to Qualicum Beach in 2003 where they are raising their son Nathaniel (Nate) 13, and daughter Murphy, 17.
“I’ve helped run businesses before but never my own,” says Shane. A sociable guy, he enjoyed engaging with customers and suppliers in the retail sales industry, but the jobs often meant commuting daily to Nanaimo. Shane was surprised that starting his own business was “less difficult than I had built it up in my head to be. Not easy, but enjoyable.” He says, “I’ve made a lot of friends in my previous jobs, and knew a bit about sourcing supply lines. Having a sales background, it helped me to be able to talk to suppliers, get pricing and the other things I needed to get going.”
But, before opening his dream business, Shane wanted to finish the schooling he had started after high school and get the best barbering credentials he could. In June of 2020, Shane packed a suitcase, rented a room in a basement in Vancouver’s Dunbar area and registered at London School. A self-described perfectionist, Shane chose to get his training at London School because it’s the only barber school in BC that is recognized by the provincial government as a training institute.
School was a whole different ball game. The 10-month “Old School Barbering” program he chose provided a good grounding in theory and practice, made more challenging because of the still-new pandemic protocols. Despite the name, the program provides training in the latest styles and techniques. Most of the students were in their 20s, says Shane, providing lots of camaraderie, and the occasional drama. But Shane received much more from his training experience than he had expected.
Located on West Hastings Street near Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, London School operates a working barbershop. Recalling one memorable experience, Shane says, “One day a gentleman got caught in the middle of a fight. He had suffered a head wound but the hospital wouldn’t allow him to enter. He was scared. The head instructor of the school came up to me, being that I was the oldest student and said, ‘You don’t have to, but would you wash his hair to get some of the dried blood out, to help him feel like a human so that the hospital would actually see him.’ ” Shane agreed immediately.
“He came in feeling really bad, and looking down. We put gloves on, got him over to the sink and turned on the warm water, and just talked to him like any other person. A little bit of touch and talking can promote some healing, and if nothing else would make him feel better. It’s amazing how much just simply washing that man’s hair made a difference. His face changed, he walked out, had a bit of a spring in his step like it was medicine and we’d made him brand-new again. That was just washing his hair. I still go back to that as a life-changing moment. Right there, that proved to me that I was doing the right thing.”
Shane graduated from the Old School Barbering program at London School in January 2021, and two months later Ocean Pacific Barber Co. was open for business. After-hours and private appointments are available. Walk-ins are welcome too; just check the schedule chalk board beside the front door to see what time slots might suit you.
“We wanted to simplify our lives,” says Shane. “It was a humongous leap of faith. We just wanted to be happy as a family. It hasn’t been the easiest route to take, but it is hugely rewarding. And being able to build and grow in Qualicum Beach makes it that much sweeter.”