Standard Barbershop bounces back after close shave with pandemic woes


Taylor Arthur

Beethoven Estupinian, left, gets a haircut from Bryan Cabrera, right, at the Standard Barbershop in Northridge, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.

Lane Lawhead, Local Business Reporter

The pandemic has caused widespread uncertainty for businesses everywhere. Many small businesses permanently closed during the nationwide shutdown, while others fell deeper and deeper into debt as their bills went unpaid due to nonexistent business. Standard Barbershop in Northridge has taken the pandemic hardships, such as lockdown and employee loss, straight on and has never lost hope — no matter how hard the situation was.

Nicolas-John Tomas, 33, started Standard Barbershop with his mother in October 2012. After a three month soft launch, Standard Barbershop made its grand opening. At the age of 20, Tomas became a professional barber and by 23, he became the co-owner of his own barbershop.

Nicolas-Johan Tomas, co-owner of the Standard Barbershop in Northridge, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Taylor Arthur)

During a recent interview, Tomas said that he is grateful for his mother who gave him the opportunity to build the business. Little did he know that the business would face unprecedented challenges.

In the beginning, it was a struggle to maintain a full staff of barbers and keep clients coming in the door, especially with the increase of barbershops opening in the area. As time went on, the staff at Standard felt that they had created a community of support with their regulars.

While Tomas was prepared for the struggles of owning a small business, nobody could have predicted the hardest challenge he would face — a global pandemic. With COVID-19 spreading rapidly, businesses were forced to close with no reopening date in sight.

Everyone at the barbershop faced uncertainty due to the shutdown. They were also fearful the June 2020 protests that took place would leave the business ransacked and damaged.

Adding to the stress, the shop lost many of its barbers throughout the closure. The employees felt as though they had no other choice but to quit and find new jobs because of the overwhelming lack of income. They couldn’t keep up with expenses and were fearful the barbershop would never reopen.

Standard Barbershop was completely closed during the first three months of the pandemic. During this time, Tomas and his mother had the responsibility of paying rent and other expenses while not getting any business.

“We never felt that we would lose the business itself, more of that we would lose production in our revenue,” Tomas said. “We dealt with it the best way we knew how, and that was to tighten our belt on expenses and get rid of any unnecessary services we were paying for monthly, like cable, water services, etc.”

Standard was finally able to fully reopen its doors for indoor business on Jan. 26, 2021. While the reopening was slow, some business was better than none.

Once the business reopened, they were met with the reality that the clientele they once had was no longer there.

“It’s definitely not how it once was since people are still cautious. But we are hopeful that the next few months will pick up,” Tomas said. “It’s slowly coming back. People are supportive of local small businesses and we are still grateful for our loyal followers.”

Robert Sampedro, left, gives his fellow barber Jonathan Sampedro, right, a trim at the Standard Barbershop in Northridge, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Taylor Arthur)

Everyone at Standard is relieved that the shop is open once again, but they remain concerned about a future shutdown. The spread of the Delta variant in Los Angeles has prompted the employees at Standard Barbershop to keep their work environment clean and safe.

Since they work in close proximity to people, the employees say that they are constantly on edge. They can’t be sure if someone is taking proper precautions and they worry about people lying about their vaccination status.

The barbershop’s employees continuously sanitize the shop to ensure a safe environment and they require anyone who enters to wear masks to enter regardless of vaccination status. Although it’s not a requirement, they ask each customer about their vaccine status.

“It’s scary because you don’t know if people are truthful about being vaccinated or if people are being safe out there, but all we can do is make sure that our shop is clean and sanitized,” Tomas said.

Standard Barbershop is located at 8937 Reseda Blvd. in Northridge, California. For more information, visit their website.