((L-R) Heather Calkins (Owner/Barber-Stylist), Andrea (Independent Barber-Stylist) and Melanie (Independent Barber-Stylist) | Photo Courtesy of Beards & Bangs BarberShop)
With the corporate world in the rear-view mirror, Heather Calkins ventured toward a future that honors the past. She traded her pencils and planners for scissors and shears, opting out of the office and into her mother-in-law’s barbershop.
Calkins conquered beauty school, but learned far more from the hands-on experience she gained from behind a barber chair working side-by-side with her mother-in-law in the small Oregon coast town of Lincoln City. With an entrepreneurial spirit and a baby on the way, Calkins dedicated herself to the family business, relishing the freedom of a flexible schedule, the promise of being her own boss and the opportunity to provide a service to her community.
A time-honored tradition, as embedded in American culture as apple pie and baseball, barbering has always been about one thing — cutting and trimming hair and beards to help men, women and children look and feel their best.
“When someone’s not feeling great about themself, and then you give them this transformation, suddenly they feel so much better… you can just see it in their face,” Calkins explained. “It seems so simple, but it means so much.”
That type of experience inspired her years ago, and still inspires Calkins today. As owner of Beards & Bangs Barbershop in Sunriver, she finds the most rewarding part of the business is being able to make someone’s day.
As a barber, Calkins said, sometimes you’re a sounding board for people who simply need a little kindness. Sometimes, she added, cutting someone’s hair can make them feel like you’ve taken the weight of the world off their shoulders.
Kids, Calkins noted, get especially excited about a new haircut. That certainly rang true for Delaney Dudley recently when she decided she wanted a change. The 11-year-old sat in the barber chair and smiled with joy as Calkins cut off her eight-inch-long ponytail.
“She wanted a cute little pixie cut and that is exactly what she got, and she absolutely loves it!” declared Summer Dudley, Delaney’s mom, who along with her husband also gets her hair cut at Beards & Bangs. “Heather is so good at what she does; she can absolutely do anything you want with your hair.”
A Space for All
While the common assumption is that barbershops are just for men, Calkins is committed to bridging the gap between full-service salons and traditional barbershops. She chose the shop’s name to emphasize that men, women and kids alike are all welcome.
“Women and kids don’t always want the bells and whistles of a salon. That’s expensive and I don’t think a haircut should be something you have to budget for,” Calkins explained, noting that she doesn’t do coloring or other chemical-based services, nor even a lot of styling. “I just want to offer affordable haircuts for hard-working, middle-class people raising families — those are my people!”
Beyond the intricacies of cutting hair and trimming beards that Calkins has mastered, she has also dedicated herself to creating a space reminiscent of the barbershops of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
“I always admired the old-school barbershop feel. That was such a cool era, nobody was in a rush and they’d just come in to chit chat and play chess or just hang out, sometimes even if they weren’t getting a haircut.”
With a foosball table in back and local cider on tap, a TV and comfortable couches out front and a central location in the heart of the Sunriver Business Park, Beards & Bangs is a welcoming community space. (Of course, COVID-19 has changed things temporarily.)
See a Need, Fill a Need
Calkins found a niche in Sunriver, where prior to her opening in April 2019, there wasn’t a barbershop.
“It was great to see Heather recognize an opportunity to get back to her passion,” noted John Baker, who first met Calkins at the Sunriver Brewing Company’s Sunriver Pub where she worked for eight years upon first moving to the area.
“It’s been impressive to watch how much her business has grown in such a short time,” Baker said.
Calkins has added two chairs to her shop since she opened, a move that has not only provided an opportunity for two more barbers to serve the small community, but has also allowed her to continue putting her family before work.
“I don’t ever want to look back and think I put work first,” Calkins stated. “This time with my kids will never happen again.”
While she has big goals for Beards & Bangs — including opening shops in small towns such as La Pine and Sisters and maybe even back in Lincoln City, as well as developing a men’s product line — she doesn’t plan to pursue them until her kids are grown, out of the house and moved on.
Calkins’ journey has always been about being able to be there for her family.
In the beginning, just three years after taking over the family barbershop back in Lincoln City, Calkins’ in-laws had to sell the building that housed the shop. With 3-year-old Wyatt toddling around and a second baby on the way, Calkins ventured out, renting chairs in a few different shops around town. But when their daughter Rylee was born premature, Calkins and her husband knew they had to get creative.
“We converted the garage into a shop so I could work from home and be there with the kids; it was awesome,” Calkins said. “Since then, being a business owner has always been my priority. I enjoy calling my own shots and controlling my own destiny.”