A lot of jokes get exchanged at Happy Coxford’s Oak Bay Barber Shoppe.
It’s part of what keeps his customers coming back and Happy, well, happy.
“It’s my sense of humour, no doubt about it,” laughs Coxford, who celebrates 25 years in business this week.
Coxford grew up in Montreal, and leaving in 1976, he ventured first to the East Coast before turning west. Without a lot of formal education, he looked at construction, but not seeing a lot of older guys still doing it, considered what he could build a career around. After hairdressing for seven years, Coxford turned to barbering.
“Men are a whole lot easier,” he laughs.
“This is the kind of work I could do til I’m dead, which I pretty much plan on doing,” says Coxford, 58. “I’m good ‘til I’m 69 on this lease – I hope to make it that far.”
Coxford spent 18 years on Oak Bay Avenue – where Pedego bike shop is today – before moving to Estevan village seven years ago. At the time, the Oak Bay Avenue site had already marked decades as a barbershop.
“It was the longest-running barbershop in Victoria until I came over here,” he says.
As it is, it looks like he’s been here forever.
A row of ball caps lines the ceiling, above a collection of paper money from around the globe – mostly dropped off by his long-standing customers – newspaper clippings and assorted memorabilia. A Steve Nash jersey – a gift from another long-time client – dresses the far wall while a new addition to the decor is a special Oak Bay Barbershop cycling jersey and shorts set.
A comfortable couch faces the two barber chairs, a place for customers to wait their turn and engage in the banter.
Waiting for his turn in the chair last week, realtor Jack Petrie recalled his first meeting with Coxford.
“I remember the first time I met you,” he said. “I had the dog in the car and you weren’t going to cut my hair unless I brought the dog in because it was dog-friendly.”
Many of Happy’s customers started with him when he – and they – were in their 30s. “Now I just get 50 shades of grey,” he jokes.
What has kept him at it all these years?
“Food,” he quips, before adding in all seriousness, “It’s great – I love it.
“Even if I won the lottery, I would still come in two or three hours a day, just to talk to the boys.”
Father of five and grandfather of four, when not manning his shop, Coxsford enjoys lots of walking and cycling with wife Gloria – the duo is dubbed “Happy and Glo,” he notes.
“I really want to thank my guys for 25 years of service and also their wives for getting them in the door in the first place,” Coxford says.
“If the wife doesn’t like the cut, the husband won’t come back.”
Stop by the Oak Bay Barber Shoppe this Saturday, when the folk-roots ensemble Bučan Bučan entertains in honour of Happy’s 25th anniversary.