You could be forgiven for thinking his last name is ‘The Barber’. About two years ago, Gary Jones came back to Queenstown with a set of clippers and a cut-throat razor to help start Gents Barber Shop. He tells Tracey Roxburgh it’s taken 15 years, and as many different jobs, to find what he loves
Gary Jones reckons he might be the cheapest therapist in Queenstown.
“$45 for half an hour and you get a haircut at the end of it as well,” he jokes.
The 38-year-old Gents Barber Shop co-owner is on his second Queenstown stint.
Originally from Birmingham, he left school and spent five years travelling around the United Kingdom trying to get as much work experience, in as many different industries, as he could to help him decide what he wanted to do.
He ultimately concluded he didn’t want to live in the UK.
So, he moved to the south of France where he spent five years working in all different aspects of superyachts before he upped sticks and went to Perth for a year, working as a builder.
Jones first landed in Queenstown around 2006, worked at the former Quiksilver store, on Beach Street, when it first opened, then for Amazon and Billabong during his four-year stay.
After a snowboarding season in Japan he moved to Auckland, where he worked variously for Quiksilver, Rodd & Gunn, selling skateboard wear nationwide, and for men’s fashion label Bing Harris & Co.
It’s that last one, which he describes as “quite an old-fashioned brand”, that’s had the biggest impact on him.
“I really liked the old tradition … which led me into really liking what barbers were and the history of them.
“I used to have hair back then, so I used to love going to the barber shop and just listening to the shit that guys used to talk and the atmosphere that’s created in a barber shop and the passion that my old barber [had] for his job.
“I looked at it and said ‘that’s what I want to do next’.”
Jones completed an intense full-time three-month “crash course” in Auckland, gained his qualification and started working in the City of Sails before, you might say, serendipity came into play.
Queenstown businessman Drew Mitchell was advertising for a senior barber in Queenstown for a shop he’d just taken over, so Jones got in contact.
“When I came back down to see Drew I pretty much was like, ‘look, this is what I do, I’ll show you my haircuts and see what you think’ … As soon as Drew said ‘I want to take you on’ I said I wanted a clause … in this agreement to say ‘we’ll work together for a few months and if we get on I want to buy into the company’.
“I think after two weeks we realised we were pretty good for each other and that was it.”
Gents became somewhat of an overnight sensation, and, Jones says, without being conceited, he’s not surprised.
“I think partially it was the fact that between me and Drew we created a brand, rather than just an actual barber shop.
“But I think at the same time, people needed this place.
“When I lived here the first time around … everyone had a shit haircut and shit experience.
“I happened to be one of those people – I had lived with the trauma of having a crap haircut, basically.”
For Jones and Mitchell, though, it’s as much about creating an experience: “We try to push it to the next level.”
Along with cut-throat shaves, they offer facials, and the ultimate grooming experience, “which is an hour-and-a-half of man-time”.
The barber shop’s now got a booze licence, so blokes can enjoy a tipple while they’re getting their dos did, and their line of natural beard oils and balms, Cut Throat, has just been picked up for national distribution and may go international.
The former “vegetarian vegan” is also now a keen hunter and goes out most weekends “hunter gathering”.
“I was a bit of a hippy when it came to animal welfare … it wasn’t that I didn’t like meat or anything like that, it was purely the way we get the meat, we don’t know what’s been pumped into them and all that kind of malarky.
“I was like ‘OK, as long as I can see it moving before I shoot it and bring it home and cook it, I’m happy with that’.”
His 15-odd years’ work experience seems to have paid dividends – he’s now settled in Queenstown with his partner, Maranda Mitchell.
“I’m 39 this year, so this is probably my final destination.
“This has grounded me, I suppose.”