In June, Chris DeSanty opened the Iron Society Barber Shop in the former Little Axe Records space on 42nd Avenue, just north of Everest Market. Little Axe recently moved its shop to a space near the Hollywood Theatre.
“I have been cutting hair for around 12 years,” said DeSanty. “I got into cutting hair as a cosmetologist rather than a barber – so I have a relatively unique approach to men’s haircuts. I focus mostly on classic haircuts, but I don’t want to be put in the category of a ‘men’s only’ space. Everyone is welcome here.”
DeSanty started the Iron Society in Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 2008.
“I had been cutting hair there in a busy barbershop and decided to do a few haircuts on the side in my studio,” said DeSanty. “I sold one of my motorcycles and bought an old dentist chair that I still cut hair in today. I was booked up cutting hair by appointment and referral only, but I always wanted to have a shop that was open to the public – with a cool old storefront – and just a slightly bizarre atmosphere.”
DeSanty’s renovation of the 42nd Avenue space has been transformational, with a newly stenciled floor and an eclectic collection of vintage taxidermy, retro ephemera and handcrafted furniture and fixtures constructed from Rebuilding Center salvage. DeSanty, who parks the 1955 Harley-Davidson pan-shovel motorcycle he rides to work in the back corner of the shop, did all the work himself.
“I have been working with my hands my entire life,” said DeSanty. “I love to build and create and problem solve with them. I think that comes through in the way I cut hair or any other projects I tackle. I’m heavily influenced by mechanical logic and the general texture of wear and tear on objects.”
“After I signed the lease, I gave myself about two weeks to get the space ready,” said DeSanty. “It was very important to me that people weren’t just getting a haircut in a white box. I had an idea of how the space needed to look and I think I got pretty close. The space is a work in progress – and I plan on sticking around for a while, so hopefully it will always be changing as we grow into the neighborhood and the space itself.”
DeSanty’s emphasis on craftsmanship includes a growing line of personal-care products for men.
“For seven years, I have been slowly curating a line of men’s grooming products,” said DeSanty. “All are made in-house, by hand. I offer a few different types of oil-based hair pomades, a water-soluble pomade and a fragrance spray. I also have a few hair products in the works, and beard oils and balms.”
“We are new to Portland and to the Beaumont area,” said DeSanty, who lives a few blocks from the shop. “I think we were lucky to end up here. I spent half a year looking high and low for a space to open a small shop – always keeping an eye on this space. I couldn’t believe it became available when it did. It’s nice to be a part of this little community and be in sort of an island of retail space surrounded by residential. It’s a pretty unique setup. My favorite neighborhood spot is the Do It Best hardware store up the street. I’m in there at least four times a week and they are great people.”