Local barber reflects on 50 years of business

BARRY’S BAY – With the current instability of the workplace, it’s hard to imagine keeping the same job for 15, 10, or even five years.

Local barber Tony Yantha, however, has a different story.
With some good grace and hard work, 71-year-old Yantha has been able to maintain steady work as a barber for over 50 years.
Yantha was raised in a large family and was the second oldest of 11 children. His father was a farmer and his mother was busy with the children, often baking 13 loaves of bread at a time to keep the family fed.
After growing up in Wilno, Yantha left the Valley area for the bright lights of Toronto as a teenager to find steady employment.
“I left Wilno and went to Toronto at 16 years of age and I got a job pretty quick. My uncle was working in the east end in a factory, though, so I went there because the pay wasn’t too good at my other job, and so I went to work for him at his paper box factory,” he noted.
Yantha remembered those shifts in the box factory as being fairly tiresome and he realized that he wanted to do something else with his life.
Story continues in the July 11 issue of The Valley Gazette.
“I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life because it was a night shift and I did it for about four years. So I went to get my hair cut on a day off one day, and I talked to this barber about my job and how I was getting tired of it, and the barber said, ‘You should be a barber’ and so I thought I’d try it out,” Yantha said.
Charting a course for a new profession, Yantha wasn’t met with positive encouragement at every turn.
“I remember that I went to the unemployment office and I inquired about unemployment insurance and the guy working said, ‘barbering is a hard trade to go into because everybody has their own barber – it may not be a good thing to do.’ But I didn’t listen to him and so I took the trade, anyways,” he added.
When he found a barber school in Toronto, the administration told him that they had an opening at one of their schools in Ottawa.
“My sister decided to come with me for the drive and so in 1962 in January, I moved to Ottawa and started at the school,” he said.
Upon finishing school in Ottawa, Yantha moved back to Barry’s Bay, and for the first 10 years of his career, his barber shop was located where Grumblin’ Granny’s is now.
Upon receiving a loan of $300 from his father, Yantha bought some used equipment and started his shop.
Ten years of renting that location, he was able to purchase a building and moved further west down the road to
where he is today on 19666 Opeongo Line.
Over the years, Yantha has seen many different trends in hairstyle fashion come and go.
“When I first started cutting, the square back or the square cut was just coming into style. And barbers were against that because they wanted the back of the hair tapered because the tapered look always looked nicer than the square-back look,” he noted.
With the constant surfacing of new hairstyles, Yantha remembered that they weren’t always so easily accepted by parents.
“I remember giving a square-back haircut to a young boy and he went home and within half an hour or so, he was back in the shop saying ‘You better take that out and cut it differently because my mom doesn’t like it,’” he added.
Remembering the difficulty of some haircuts, he recalls that the learning curve was pretty steep from the get-go.
“One of the hardest cuts for me to learn was the brush cut or the flat top. Now, with hairstyling and barbering being mixed together, they don’t get enough time to learn that skill,” Yantha said.
Overall, Yantha has loved being a barber in Barry’s Bay for five decades and has made some great friends by cutting many heads of hair.
“I like the smallness of the town and the friendliness of the people. My customers are my friends. We’ve gotten to know each other on quite a personal level over the years,” he noted.
Story continues in the July 11 issue of The Valley Gazette.