As Dino Avanitis stands cutting hair in his four-chair Kerrisdale barber shop he opened 33 years ago, there’s a constant stream of people walking by who stop to wave hello, including a young mother with a toddler who adorably blows him a kiss.
And it’s not just residents passing by who stop to acknowledge the affable Greek-Canadian barber. Several times during the Courier’s visit to Economy Barber Shop on a sunny December day, drivers and passengers in vehicles also wave a silent hello. And with each greeting, Avanitis happily stops mid-cut to wave back.
“This is why I come to work every day,” says Avanitis. “I love the people. It’s what keeps me getting up every morning.”
Economy Barber Shop is an institution in a neighbourhood in the midst of rapid change. In fact, most of the 5600 block of West Boulevard where the shop is located will soon be demolished, forever changing the face of the Village of Kerrisdale. Even the adjacent British-style Cheshire Cheese Inn pub, which also opened in 1979, is closed and the now-vacant space will soon be absorbed into the major development planned for the area. Avanitis seems resigned to the rapid growth of Kerrisdale.
“A lot of people were sad to see Cheshire Cheese close, but there is nothing you can do about it,” says Avanitis. “I know it’s going to be noisy during the construction, but what can I do?”
But it’s obvious Avanitis has feelings of nostalgia for the way this village once looked and its dwindling number of longtime residents. On this day the wealthy dowagers and retirees Kerrisdale was once famous for are few and far between. Instead, the sidewalks are lined with well-dressed men and women of Asian descent, testament to the changing demographics of the neighbourhood. But Avanitis simply sees the changing face of Kerrisdale as an opportunity to draw more customers and meet new friends.
“I still have three and four generations of customers coming in, but I also have new customers,” says Avanitis. “A lot of people sold their houses at high prices and moved away or have gone into apartments. Today, there are more young people and lots of coffee shops and sushi places and a lot of beauty shops. Some new customers come in here and can’t even speak English, but I love it. It makes me feel good they want to come here.”
While Avanitis chats, his canary, nicknamed “Jimmy the Greek,” sings happily in its cage perched in the front window where the Canadian, Greek and Olympic flags have a place of pride inside the shop. Meanwhile, customers, mostly older men, wander in for a haircut. As one elderly man leaves the shop he stops to admonish this reporter. After overhearing part of the conversation between Avanitis and the Courier, the man offers this advice.
“Don’t you know you should never ask a gentleman his age?”
To which Avanitis replies laughing, “Age is only a number. You’re only as old as you feel.” (But Avanitis asked that his age not be included in this story.)
On this day the shop is decorated for Christmas, but its walls are also lined with photographs of Greece, B.C. and numerous clients, including the 2010 Canadian Olympic men’s gold medal curling team.
Despite its changing landscape, Avanitis is still very proud to be part of the fabric of Kerrisdale.
“I’ve got a good spot here. I see the kids from school [at Point Grey secondary] and people stop by and wave. See those trees over there?” asks Avanitis, pointing across the street to three fir trees. “I planted those trees 10 years ago and every year I put lights on one of them for Christmas. I still care about this neighbourhood and I want it to look good.”
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