What could be better than a classic barbershop specializing in simple, timeless cuts? If you ask Jason Hatheway, Owner of Edmonton’s Black Forest Barbershop, not much. Gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit, Jason was determined to pull off his vision for the perfect barbershop. With years of industry experience and training in Blanche Macdonald’s Pro Hair Program, he was confident that he could do it. All he needed was a little support.
Enter: Manager Cody Dunbar. Years ago, a chance meeting with Jason sparked his own barbering career, so it seemed only natural that their paths would cross again.
Now, this two-man show is serving up sleek styles with precision and finesse. And with a feature on CBC and clients lining up for their impeccable services, it’s clear that Black Forest Barbershop is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after shops in all of Edmonton.
“I was a huge fan of the whole program. With the barbering, it was the hands-on experience. Getting enough straight razor hot shaves under your belt, it felt like I was in my zone.”
Tell me about your background; what led you to barbering?
Jason Hatheway: I moved to Vancouver in 2009 to pursue a Hospitality Business Management diploma. I pursued that career for about two years, but I lost my passion for it. My family has a background in the beauty industry. My mom mentioned, “Oh, you’re creative. You should become a hairstylist.” So I thought, “If I want to become a barber, I should learn every aspect of the hair.” I knew Blanche Macdonald had a reputation for quality stylists. So I enrolled, and I fell in love with it.
Cody Dunbar: Trades run in the family, and I was looking for my own trade. My uncle kept his hands the cleanest as an electrician, so I tried a couple summers working with him. At the point I met Jason, I was already contemplating getting into a different trade. I didn’t realize that hairstyling is a Red Seal, journeyman-qualified trade. So I jumped in!
What’s the vision behind Black Forest Barbershop?
JH: Simplicity. I had this vision of a higher-end, 1960s, New York-style barbershop. When you come into my shop, you know it’s a barbershop. There are no gimmicks. You’re going to come in, get a good service, and get out in a reasonable time.
What are the highlights of barbering?
CD: Bringing in people, wherever they’re coming from, and sending them out with more confidence.
JH: I love the idea of having a new face in my chair every 30 minutes. Building these friendships with these guys, I’m a people person so I couldn’t be in a better career.
“A few teachers would just nail home a concept, and then you'd be able to apply it to every other part of the program.”
What were your favorite parts of the Hair Program?
CD: I was a huge fan of the whole program. With the barbering, it was the hands-on experience. Getting enough straight razor hot shaves under your belt, it felt like I was in my zone. But honestly, it’s all about the teachers. A few teachers would just nail home a concept, and then you’d be able to apply it to every other part of the program. Especially [Hair Instructor] Jeff Ranger —he’s a barber in the industry right now—we’ve stayed in touch. He’s been like an “on-call” mentor.
JH: The relationships I made. I had been in Vancouver for three years, and I still really hadn’t found my people. That’s actually why I showed up to class all the time. Jeff Ranger was a huge part of why I enjoyed being on the floor. [But] my favourite part was just the everyday interactions with my classmates. We had such a diverse class going through this training together.
What made you decide to take the leap of faith to open your own barbershop?
JH: I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I just couldn’t see myself working for someone else. So I took a chance. I invested everything I had and built what I thought was the best barbershop. Jumping into it was scary. But I had seven bookings my first day without any marketing.
I spent my first seven months building relationships in the community and building a foundation by giving out the best quality cuts. [Then] Cody messaged me, so I brought him in, and he’s been a huge asset.
“I knew Blanche Macdonald had a reputation for quality stylists. So I enrolled, and I fell in love with it.”
When it comes to hairstyling, do you have a niche or specialization?
JH: I could let Cody answer, but he’s hands down one of the best barbers in the city. I’m always impressed with his fade and beard combination. His beard trims are above and beyond what people expect; I’m so proud of how talented he is at such a young age. He’s going to do big things.
CD: Jason specializes in classic ’60s military styles. We have a military base closeby, and they already know the place to go for super sharp fades, anything with volume and ’60s kind of old-fashioned.
I love that you answered for each other.
JH: We do have a serious, serious bromance.
Who would be your dream client if you could have anyone sit in your hair?
JH: I’m gonna keep it Canadian: Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling. If we had both those guys in our shop, I don’t think we would be able to contain ourselves.
What does the future look like for Black Forest?
JH: Well, I hope Cody sticks around for a long time. I could open up another location in the next two years. Even if I just have one shop, I would be happy, but why stop at one, you know?