Melat Asfaw will re-brand her long-established salon space in the 42nd Street Station mall as MB42. In May, Asfaw brought in a new partner, Roberto Villalobos, who opened an old-school barbershop, Peluqueria Fisticuts, in the eastern portion of the salon.
Peluqueria is the Spanish word for barbershop and “Fisticuts” is a play on the word fisticuffs. Villalobos is a former actor and comedian from Los Angeles who moved to Portland earlier this year.
“I never planned on cutting hair. I have performed stand-up comedy since 2001 and I tried to chase that dream for ten years in Los Angeles,” said Villalobos. “I have appeared on numerous television shows and stage productions. It was fun for a while, but reality kicked in and the debt collectors came knocking, so I learned to cut hair at a barber school in Torrance, California, and honed my craft alongside some of the finest barbers in Los Angeles. I moved to Portland in 2016 and I have not looked back, after realizing how happy cutting hair makes me.”
Villalobos has now been in the hair industry for five years and at the 42nd Street Station for five months.
“I met Melat when I moved to Portland,” said Villalobos. “She asked me about renting a chair. I thought about it and wanted to work at other shops first to build up a clientele. In March, I approached Melat with the idea of renting a portion of her salon – instead of just a chair – for my own barbering business. Melat loved the idea and has let me operate independently of her side of the salon. It is important to me that my clients feel like they are in a barbershop and getting the true barber experience. I designed my space to reflect that.”
Cutting hair in Los Angeles taught Villalobos how to work with all hair types in a precise and efficient manner. He brings that experience and expertise to a growing Portland population that is starting to demand more from their haircut experience.
“When you get your hair cut with me you will remember it,” said Villalobos. “As soon as you walk into my space you will be taken back in time. The chair I use is a Koken President from 1959. Frank Sinatra used to get his hair cut in the same model chair. Customers love sitting in it and hearing its history. They also love my 1943 cash register, my 1901 wooden barber chair and my wall full of mug shots. My television has all the sports channels, but I usually have soccer on. Guys instantly feel at ease and at home in the environment. They also love stopping at Aunt Tillie’s for a pint before their cut – compliments of the barber. All haircuts finish with a vintage scalp massager and a hot-towel neck shave with a straight razor. I also carry a large assortment of men’s grooming products, pomade, hair tonics, shaving creams and razor blades.”
Several of Villalobos’ clients play for the Portland Timbers, and he hired muralist Jose Solis to paint them on a custom Timbers mural for the shop.
“The mural is the centerpiece of my area,” said Villalobos. “My Timbers clients love it and signed it. Jose painted them on a large piece of aluminum and delivered it to the shop. It is amazing and gets compliments daily.”
Villalobos appreciates the history of his new neighborhood.
“The Hollywood area is a bit of a throwback to the old school,” said Villalobos. “I love the area and the 42nd Street Station in particular. Antique Alley was the reason I heard of the station, and I felt right at home in the building. The businesses in this area are all friendly, and I love the entrepreneurial spirit I see in the owners. In a world where corporate chains seem to be popping up everywhere, I love to see small business owners taking a stand and thriving in Hollywood.”
42nd Street Station is located at 2000 N.E. 42nd Ave. For more information about Peluqueria Fisticuts, call (503) 862-8477 or visit www.fisticuts.com. For more information about MB42, call (503) 281-5497 or visit www.42ndstreetstation.net.