No, they don’t just give square-style haircuts at Square Deal Barber in South Pasadena. “Square Deal” is the name the founder gave the barbershop back in 1935, and it’s the name the present owner, John Halminski, is sticking to.
Halminski said keeping the name is his way of honoring his grandfather, William Halminski, a Polish immigrant who came to the United States in the early 1920s, settled in New York, and then moved to Southern California. He also wants to honor his own father, Edward, who fought in World War II, studied agriculture after the war, and then took over the barbershop.
“’Square Deal’ is a Teddy Roosevelt deal,” John Halminski says today. “His program was called the ”Square Deal.’ And his cousin’s (President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s) program was called the ‘New Deal.’ So my grandfather, being an immigrant and assimilating to America, he thought, ‘Man, what a great thing, providing a guy a square deal.’ So he named it the Square Deal.”
John did some remodeling when he inherited the barbershop from his father, and did some name changes as well. But three years ago, he opened it as “Square Deal” and said it’s been a humbling experience seeing the business grow under that name.
“We’ve had customers walk in and say, ‘My gosh, I’ve been here for 20 years. I didn’t even know this was a barber shop!’” says Halminski. “Because the barber shop wasn’t as big as it was. It was only on one side. When I did the remodel, I opened it all up and made it one big barbershop. But I think just that surprise of, ‘Wow, you’re actually here and it’s a barber shop,’ that’s gratifying.”
Halminski keeps his grandfather’s original barber pole from 1935 in the remodeled shop, and it keeps reminding him, and most local customers, of the history Square Deal Barber has gone through. The name and that pole also makes the connection between the barbershop and the South Pasadena community stronger.
“I think what it comes down to is that we’re basically a community barber shop, meaning we service the community of South Pasadena and create that sense of community, where people come in here and it’s the typical everybody-knows-your-name kind of atmosphere,” he says.
Halminski said his grandfather discovered South Pasadena about 1923 and built their first house on what’s now Meridian Ave. and Bonita Drive. The family lost the house during the Depression, so they rented the building on Mission Street where Square Deal is presently located. Later, his grandfather purchased the building and set up the barbershop in 1935.
Edward Halminski was at UC Davis studying agriculture when he came home on vacation around 1953. It was at that time that he decided to become a barber.
“His nickname was ‘Hal’, short for Halminski,” John says. “In 1964, my grandfather passed away and my dad continued staying here as a barber. In the early 70s, he changed the shop’s name to ‘Hal’s,’ and so in town, everybody knew my dad as Hal; they didn’t know him as Ed, he was Hal.”
John said he likes giving the history because of South Pasadena being a historic town.
“It means a lot to me, being here and watching this grow and foster these barbers and be here to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’” he says.
Not only does he want the barbershop to be a symbol of the sense of community in South Pasadena. He also encourages visitors to come often and make the city – and especially Mission Street – a destination community whenever they travel to the area.
“You can see that by just walking down Mission Street,” he said. “You got the ostrich farm back in the 20s. And so for people that are historically integrated, I think it’s a destination place for the barber shop. It kind of plays off that, because we’ve been here since the early 30s.”
Square Deal Barber currently operates as a chair-rental shop, where the barbers rent space from the owner for a monthly or weekly fee and keep the rest of the income.
They’re both an appointment and walk-in business, and about 75 percent of the business is booked online. Customers can also use the Fresh app, an industry standard, to book appointments. Call-ins and walk-ins make up about 25 to 30 percent of the business, Halminski said.
Military veterans and active-duty servicemen always get $5 off every time, Halminski said, as a way to thank them for their service. It’s also another way to thank his own father.
More of the history of Square Deal Barber is on their website, as well as the services they offer. Visit www.squaredealbarber.com or call (626) 524-1108 for more information.
The shop is located at 1108 Mission Street.