By Deborah Bostock-Kelley
If the television show “Cheers” could be recreated as a barbershop, it would be Rigby’s, a friendly spot in the heart of Westchase named after the owner’s dog. From catering to dads and their young sons to adult sons and their elder fathers, Rigby’s offers haircuts, beard trims, straight razor shaves, beer, and occasionally two tail-wagging four-legged greeters.
“It’s the atmosphere where you walk in, someone is always going to say hello to you,” said founder Shawna Burnham. “People are going to converse with you. They’re going to care to say how are you today and listen to your answer. There’s jokes, laughter, and fun in here. There always is. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s the people that work here that make us different. That’s the short answer, the easiest answer, and that’s the truth.”
Shawna said that customers regularly run into friends they know, sit in the large waiting room and have conversations while waiting for their service.
Rigby’s is a no-appointment-necessary, walk-right-in, grab-a-sports-magazine-and-a-cold-one, welcoming kind of barbershop that the community was sorely lacking. As most men were not fans of women-centric hair salons, Rigby’s filled the niche.
“Westchase needed a barbershop. When I opened nine years ago, men had two options: a chain or pay more money at a hair salon. Most men don’t want their hair washed, and most don’t color their hair. There’s really no reason for them to go into a hair salon and smell hair salon chemicals when they can go to our barbershop, watch sports, have a beer, read men’s magazines, and listen to chill music. It’s very much geared towards men, which I think makes them naturally more comfortable.”
The irony is if Shawna hadn’t had an allergy to salon hair chemicals during her schooling in New York, this multi-generational local landmark since December 2012 might never have existed. Shawna put herself through college by working at a barbershop, where she had discovered she had a passion for barbering.
Long before the pandemic protocols were implemented, Shawna and her staff were routinely disinfecting between clients, and the expansive 1500 square foot shop enabled social distancing. The large waiting room doesn’t get crowded, and customers can spread out and safely distance. Though the barbers wear masks while cutting hair, clients have a choice not to wear them.
“Doing beard trims, it’s just not possible for a client to wear a mask,” Shawna explained. “We’ve always kept a clean shop. We’re tidy, and I’m a big fan of bleach. It’s always been like that in our industry. Sanitation has always been important. Nothing really changed that drastically for us except for wearing the mask.”
Whether it was pandemic-2020-inspired or just a return to an older hairstyle, Shawna said that the hair trends she sees in 2021 are men wearing their hair on the longer side.
“Some people are growing their hair out and realize they like it longer, even if they are keeping it clean around the edges. Then again, a lot of people are just buzzing their hair off at home. Coronavirus has completely changed everything for everybody. You adapt and keep going.”
With a staff of 7 male and female barbers, Rigby’s is a great place for fathers and sons to bond and give moms an hour of alone time.
“While we specialize in men, we also love little kids. So I’d say we specialize in men and boy’s haircuts,” Shawna said. “That’s a really cool aspect of my job. You watch these kids grow up, and in the other direction, we have fathers that bring their dads in. I think a lot of barbershops can get crazy with the really loud music. We try to keep a chill atmosphere. We want our customers to enjoy the relaxed mood.”
When asked what she loves about her job and the best compliment she has ever received from her customers, Shawna took but a second to respond, “I hear ‘I love the haircut and ‘it’s the best hair I’ve ever had.’ That happens more often, but when a customer says, ‘you’re funny,’ that’s my favorite compliment from anybody. That doesn’t go away.
“The best gift that the barbershop has given me is honestly, I’ve met some of my best friends through Rigby’s. People started out being my customers, and we got along so well. The customers really become a part of your life. Some people think it’s just a haircut, but the thing is, I was there when your kid was born; I gave him his first haircut before he went to kindergarten. I have a client who I’ve cut his hair since he was two and he’s 22 now getting ready to graduate from FSU. I helped him get an internship, and they just offered him a job. We are a part of people’s lives. It’s the friendships, the relationships, the community. Westchase is such a great community. It’s the people – that’s what I truly love about Rigby’s.”
Rigby’s is located at 11655 Countryway Blvd in Westchase. They are open 9-7 Monday through Friday and 9-3 on Saturday. For more information, visit rigbysbarbershop.com.