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It’s a great place for conversation

Father-and-son business partnerships sometimes run the risk of ruining a good relationship, but Lonnie and Chad Bones are one team with no fear of splitting hairs.

After all, they’re barbers.

Lonnie, 51, started the Basalt Barber Shop in 1992 and was joined by son Chad, 25, five years ago. Together they run a thriving family business that has grown into an unofficial Basalt social center.

Everyone from wealthy second-home owners up the Fryingpan to blue-collar grunts from midvalley trailer parks flock to the barber shop for one of the quickest cuts in the West.

“We get people who have been around the world and people who haven’t been out of the valley,” Lonnie said.

Everybody gets the same treatment. Appointments aren’t allowed.

Since there are almost always a few people waiting their turn, the barber shop is a great place to exchange town gossip, swap big fish stories or rehash the Super Bowl.

“We like people to interact while they’re here,” said Lonnie. “I joke about it – calling it the Basalt Social Club.”

The barber shop is housed in a building that defines quaint. It’s in a little brown shack at the end of Midland Avenue, Basalt’s main street. Faded lettering on an outside wall touts Chinese food, hamburgers, egg rolls – leftover advertising from a prior occupant.

But for eight years come April, the spot’s been known for a good cut, not good food.

Lonnie and Chad are on a first-name basis with many of their customers. They even remember the face – or at least the head of hair – of people who have only been in a time or two. That’s part of the appeal of the place.

“We try to remember everybody’s names,” said Lonnie. “That’s kind of lost these days. Everything’s so fast-paced.”

You can’t help but think of Floyd’s Barber Shop, the hub of activity in Mayberry, N.C., the television town where Andy Griffith was sheriff.

“People will say that all the time,” said Chad.

“But Floyd couldn’t cut hair,” Lonnie was quick to add, tongue-in-cheek.

The Bones take their work seriously. Chad is a fourth-generation barber, following his grandfather and great-grandfather, who both cut hair in Ottawa, Kan. At least one Bones has carried the tools of the trade since 1914.

Like Lonnie and Chad, the prior two generations of Bones barbers also worked together. “I grew up hanging around my grandpa’s shop and my dad’s shop,” said Lonnie.

Lonnie’s dad died in a car accident while Lonnie was still in high school, so he didn’t have a chance to go into business with him. But Lonnie did go to the same barber school in Wichita, Kan. that his dad attended.

Lonnie has been barbering for 33 years. He has sometimes gotten out of the business, but has always been lured back. He’s owned and operated one of the biggest shops in Kansas City and had the foresight to open a “hair salon” in rural Kansas when there was a proliferation of barber shops.

He moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1976 and realized when the building became available in Basalt nearly eight years ago that there was a proliferation of salons, but a need for a midvalley barber shop.

Chad, a 1992 graduate of Basalt High School, went to barber school in Glenwood Springs before joining his dad in an arrangement they said has worked out well.

“When Chad comes to work, he’s my partner,” said Lonnie. They work side by side, barber chair by barber chair, Tuesday through Saturday.

While both are humble, they acknowledge that they think they can cut hair as well as anyone – something to which their popularity would attest. But cutting hair is only part of their art. Both are also excellent conversationalists.

“Even though you’re cutting hair all day, it’s different every day,” said Chad. “It’s the conversations, the people, their stories that make it interesting.”

Sometimes what customers don’t say is also entertaining. One client told Chad he was in a hurry, didn’t want to talk and wanted his hair cut in three minutes. Chad got him out in about five minutes.

Lonnie recalled that a 6-year-old boy from a family that traveled extensively overseas came in with his dad for a haircut. After they were finished, the boy exclaimed, “I want to tell you this is the coolest barber shop. There’s not even one this cool in Paris.”

Indeed, the interior is a delight for boys of any age. Old skis, a toy train and a stuffed bass are just a few of the interesting mementos hanging on the wall. Lonnie likes to pull a prank on tourists by telling them the bass was caught locally, though it’s from Texas. It puzzles them for a few seconds, but they usually call him on the story.

A small television is usually tuned to ESPN, unless Lonnie sneaks the remote and turns to a fishing show on The Nashville Network.

The Basalt Barber Shop itself is scheduled to appear on a fishing show on ESPN. A crew checking out the trout in the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers shot some footage of the shop to show a little local color. If the footage survives, it’s scheduled to run on ESPN’s Flyfishing America in May.

That ought to make for interesting conversation for a day or two.


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