Wonder what Basalt is thinking? Visit the barbershop
It’s hard to say if Lonnie Bones is better at cutting hair or chewing the fat, he’s been doing both so well for so long.
Bones celebrated his 25th anniversary as owner and operator of the Basalt Barber Shop on April 15. Lonnie and his son Chad, who has over 20 years in the business, are fixtures in the small shack they rent at the east end of Midland Avenue, Basalt’s main drag.
Lonnie saw a need for his skills back in 1992. The midvalley had plenty of salons but not a barbershop. But it’s the interaction with his customers that’s kept him interested for so long.
“It’s the stories, man. People have good stories,” he said. “It’s so fun to listen to — what people come up with, where they’ve been and what they do.
“People go all over the world, then they come back. I say, ‘Bring pictures and tell me about your trip.’ It’s like I get to go to a free movie. It’s awesome.”
He’s cut the hair of local ranchers who rarely, if ever, have left the Roaring Fork Valley, he said, and he’s cut the hair of U.S. ambassadors to foreign countries.
He’s got some customers, such as Tom Clark and his sons, who have been coming all 25 years of his barbershop’s existence. “Our local customers are really loyal,” he said.
There are also second-home owners and seasonal workers to keep the business vibrant.
Both Boneses have an easy rapport with customers. Larry Yaw has been getting his hair cut at the barbershop for about 15 years, since he moved his architecture business to Basalt from Aspen.
“Make me look prince-like,” he ribs Lonnie when it’s his turn to take the chair.
When Yaw is asked what’s kept him coming back for so long, Lonnie interjects, “He’s waiting for me to get it right.”
Yaw said he likes a good cut at a fair price, and the lively conversation.
“In Aspen they’re not ‘barbers,’ they’re ‘stylists,’” Yaw said. “And they charge for it.”
On just about any given day, you can count on finding at least two or three people, usually men, waiting for a cut. There are no appointments. Nobody seems to mind the wait. The quarters are so small that conversation is inclusive.
Sports are probably the most popular topic, the Boneses agree.
“This year there was a lot of people talking about the election stuff,” Lonnie said. “We try to stay away from politics.”
People who want to keep to themselves can absorb the sports or fishing shows typically tuned into the flat-screen TV affixed to the wall among an eclectic mix of memorabilia.
There’s the stuffed bass that Lonnie tries to pass over as coming from the Fryingpan River. There’s probably the world’s largest beer stein, which Lonnie scored when he operated an antique store. There are old skis, model trains, hats and mounted Texas longhorns — cool stuff that tends to collect over 25 years.
When Lonnie first located into the shack, which was previously a restaurant, the owner at the time warned him he was going to sell it any day. He held onto it for years and Lonnie’s lease was renewed when an Aspen couple took ownership of the building.
“I was hoping it was going to be long term,” he said.
Chad joined forces with his dad in the mid-1990s.
“I just didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said the 1992 graduate of Basalt High School. “I was doing hardwood flooring because we had a hardwood flooring company. I started doing that when I was about 13 years old and I just knew that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Lonnie offered to send Chad to barber school when he opened the shop. While there was no pressure, barbering runs in their blood. Chad is the fourth generation of Boneses to be a barber. At least one person in their family has plied the scissors since 1914. Lonnie’s dad and grandpa worked together for about eight years in Ottawa, Kansas.
Lonnie said his dad always told him he was going to send him to barber school when he graduated from high school, but he didn’t want Lonnie to be a full-time barber. He wanted him to have a trade to fall back on if needed. Lonnie tried his hand in other businesses but was destined to be a barber. By the end of May, it will be 50 years since he first cut hair.
He has no plans to hang up his scissors now that he’s in his 60s. His customers need the cuts and he needs the stories.
“It’s worked out well for us,” Lonnie said.
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