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New owner cuts her own path at barbershop
Every once in a while, Kellie Quanrud catches herself asking permission to leave work a little early.
But, as the new owner of the Acme Barbershop in downtown Bremerton, she’s the boss and doesn’t need anyone’s permission to take off.
Quanrud bought the barbershop Nov. 1 from Kevin Johnson, who still owns the original Acme location on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. That shop, coincidentally, was named one of the top ten in the country by “Playboy” magazine.
“Kevin is a good friend of mine,” Quanrud said. “I used to work at the Seattle shop years ago and then I moved back here and we stayed good friends.”
After moving back, Quanrud kept telling Johnson that Bremerton needed a cool barbershop and he eventually opened a second Acme shop in downtown Bremerton on Fourth Street, between Pacific and Park avenues.
Quanrud has been barbering for the better part of ten years and worked at Plaza Barbershop near Fred Meyer for about two years between working for Johnson in Seattle and Bremerton.
“It’s was kind of scary,” she said of her early days at Acme when it first opened about a year and a half ago. “All of the barbers here are on commission. We’re like contractors, so when we first opened, I was averaging about five cents an hour. That’s what I think I was making.”
Things soon picked up, though, and the shop has stayed busy since Quanrud took over. December was a record month and January is on a similar trajectory, she said. Quanrud said that one of the biggest keys to being successful is having good barbers.
“Having good barbers is definitely key, because everybody is a walking advertisement,” she said. “So, if they get a bad cut, it’s got our name attached to it. We’ve got really good barbers right now and I think that’s helping us get pretty busy.”
Besides herself, the barbers include Chanelle Demers, Jennifer Logan and Eli Hartnett. The crew just recently created a collage on one of the shop’s walls using magazine cutouts that juxtapose celebrity portraits with wacky images that run the gamut from silly to a bit racy. The rest of the walls are a pleasant teal or white tone surrounding old-school barber chairs that practically send a written invitation to passersby to sit down and get cleaned up. A rotating mix of Pandora stations also keep the vibe comfortable.
In one predominant corner of the shop, there hangs a large painting of Johnson cutting hair inside of Acme. The beautiful painting was done by Quanrud’s father, John, as a gift to the shop when it opened.
“I’d love to be as good as him someday,” Quanrud, who is also a painter, said of her father. “I’ve still got a lot to learn. But, yeah, he was an artist for a living, so I got to grow up around it.”
Proof of her prowess as a painter can be seen in a pair of acrylics of Volkswagens that adorn opposite walls in the shop.
“It’s kind of nice that I can use the shop as a kind of gallery,” she said. “My house is an A-frame so I can’t hang anything because all of my walls are slanted.”
Quanrud said she was initially drawn to barbering because of the social aspects of the job and the hands-on creativity it entails.
“You’re just free to be yourself in this business,” she said. “You don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way. There’s a lot of freedom.”
And, just like a good barber can keep customers coming back, the customers themselves can make it easy for a barber to head to work.
“I’ve grown close to a lot of my regular guys as I’ve worked in this area over the last ten years,” Quanrud said. “They become some of your good, if not best, friends. I try to imagine retiring and I’m like, ‘No, I would miss my guys.’ ”