Barbershop builds bridges

The barbers of Old Town Barbershop, (from left) Jess, Kincaide, Tyler and Melissa Harris. Not pictured is shop owner Geraldine Prociw, who originally connected the barbershop with Camp Florence.

Old Town Barbershop, Camp Florence team up to help incarcerated youth transition to professional careers

Oct. 22, 2021 - If someone walks into Old Town Barbershop, 1341 Bay St., on any given day, they may get more than they bargained for. Besides a modern haircut, they may meet a young man making his first steps into a lifelong career. These young men aren’t here, learning to be barbers, because they grew up always wanting to cut hair. Theirs is a different path.

Jess, Kincade and Tyler are all graduates of MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility’s barbering program. All three, as part of their progression through the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA), finished or are finishing their journey at Camp Florence Youth Transitional Facility, located near the South Jetty.

Camp Florence is one the OYA’s four transition programs, where youth have the chance to work in a community and gain extra skills to help them prepare for moving out of custody.

Shop owner Geraldine Prociw connected with Camp Florence several years ago through Marc Barnum, the facility’s Vocation and Education Services for Older Youth coordinator.

Tyler was the first barber from Camp Florence to work at the barbershop. He has since graduated from the program and now works full time at the barbershop and lives in Newport.

“The only thing that's different between this barber shop and any other barbershop is this barbershop has a team that's willing to give everybody an opportunity — and it doesn't matter where you came from,” Tyler said.

Jess is from Portland and never imagined he would one day be a barber.

“Before I was 18 (years old), I probably went to a barbershop twice in my life,” he said. “I had hair all the way down to my chest. I couldn't tell you why I joined, but it's probably one of the best choices I've ever made.”

Kincade is also from Portland and used this opportunity to not only learn barbering but also important communication skills.

“It’s a good opportunity because it’s giving us the job we actually went to school for,” he said. “Communicating with different kinds of people is awesome. It’s good that we make money down there, but getting the experience is what makes it worth it.”

Prociw describes all three young men as a blessing. She’s been on maternity leave and having them hold down the shop, along with fellow barber Melissa Harris, has worked out wonderfully.

Based on what she hears from the community, the town of Florence agrees.

“It’s cool when I go to the grocery store and people come up and tell me, ‘Those boys are really professional and give great haircuts,’” Prociw said. “There are really great things to be said about them in the community.”

These three may be helping Prociw, but just watching them progress has been a good experience for her as well.

"It's been a true joy to be an influence in these young men's lives,” said Prociw. ”For that I'm proud of. It's a feeling I've never felt before, and watching Tyler transition out of the program was a moving experience."

Harris has worked with the three on a day to day basis, cutting hair at their side and has been amazed at how their skills have progressed.

“When they first came to the shop, they were nervous to be a part of this new ‘scene,’” she said. “I’ve watched them evolve and now they are able to talk to different people from all walks of life and give them a great haircut while they’re at it.”

For Harris, this program also reminded her of what an asset Prociw is to this community.

“Not only is she (Prociw) laid back and easy going, but she is willing to help anyone, anywhere, regardless of the situation,” Harris added.

Harris, Tyler, Kincaide and Jess are all available by appointment with occasional walk-in spots available. For appointments, call 541-590-3660. The Old Town Barbershop is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.