Six Busy Barbers, One Cool Man Cave
It took time for Andrew Maki, a sixth-generation native of Claremont, to find “his thing.” He tried selling cars and appliances, making cabinets, doing taxes and building maintenance, and taking college classes. Finally, after joining the New Hampshire National Guard, Maki saw a vision of his future taking shape during his weekly haircuts.
“I began to think barbering might be a fun job,” he says. “It’s a trend in our generation to lean toward tangible jobs, a trade or a craft that you can put your hands on and show what you do.”
Maki, 26, had learned the value of craftsmanship from his grandfather, owner of the former Topstone Furniture Company in Claremont. Like his grandfather, he also hoped to build a business of his own one day. The prospect of learning the art and craft of barbering and running a barbershop seemed promising.
Following his barber’s advice, Maki went to the New England School of Barbering in Penacook for training. He was pleased to discover that barbershops are making a comeback all across the nation. From the start, Maki loved everything about barbering – from its long tradition of quality craftsmanship and service and the easy banter of the barbershop to the immediate rewards of giving customers a fresh cut and clean shave.
After seven or eight months of working at a barbershop in Concord, Maki felt ready to become his own boss. Coincidently, he learned that New London’s long-time barber, Lenny Feenstra, had retired a week earlier. Soon Maki would open the Topstone Barber Company in Feenstra’s 240-sq.ft. shop. Within a few months, the shop was packed, with two-hour wait times for some customers. Maki renovated the shop twice and added two more barbers before finding a larger space in the heart of downtown New London.
Today Topstone is tucked beneath the 225-year-old New London Inn on Main Street. The barbershop has morphed into a lively hub with five barbers and an apprentice that serves a loyal customer base extending from the Upper Valley of Vermont through New Hampshire and across the border into Massachusetts. Its customers include professors and students from Vermont Law School, doctors from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, soccer team members from Colby-Sawyer College, local men and boys and a growing number of women with short hair.
With its black and white checkerboard floor and antique barber chairs, Topstone has the look of an old barbershop, but customers won’t find a ten-dollar, ten-minute haircut here. Appointments last about 45 minutes and include a chat about what the customer would like, followed by an expert cut with clippers, maybe a shave, and a straight razor around the ears and back of the neck. The experience culminates with a relaxing steamed towel around the neck, and if needed, a full blow dry.
Some customers stop by the barbershop just to chat or have coffee or a beer with the Topstone barbers.
“People say they’ve been searching for a third space; there’s home, there’s work, and there’s your third space – the place you feel comfortable, no matter what,” Maki says. “This is it for some guys. We get to know ’em pretty well.”
To learn more about Topstone Barber Company, visit http://topstonebarber.com/