Barber Mike cuts his losses
He’s cut, trimmed, shaved and polished thousands of heads of hair from multi-millionaires to politicians.
Now, after more than 35 years running his Remuera barber store, Mike Addy is closing shop and heading to Pt Chevalier.
“The customers are gutted. We’re moving to the other side of town, but a lot of people will drive over there.”
The lease at The Gentry on Remuera Rd expired earlier this month, and Mr Addy says there is no way to renew it.
“We looked at other salons in this area but there was nothing we can afford. Some are asking for $1000 a week and we couldn’t charge what we charge to make a living.”
Mr Addy’s career is a family legacy spanning five generations.
His great-grandfather, grandfather, father and mother were all hairdressers.
Two of his eight children are following in his footsteps, and all four cousins in England are in the same trade.
Despite his 18 grandchildren being too young to work, one is planning to apply for a hairdressing and makeup school.
Mr Addy started his 50-year career at age 10 helping out at his father’s barber store and mother’s salon in England.
After finishing an apprenticeship in Mayfair, he decided to broaden his horizons and try for something more challenging. At 21 he left his homeland. “I asked my uncle: ‘What’s the furthermost place away from here?’ They said New Zealand. I said: ‘Where’s New Zealand’?”
With an image of a country filled with cannibals and jungle, he jokes he was warned to take his gun.
But after a month at sea, Mr Addy arrived in Auckland and settled in Mangere east, a life vastly different from what he had imagined.
He began working at London Line, a salon in central Auckland.
It was there he realised that 1950s New Zealand was behind the times in terms of men’s hairdressing, prompting him to open a barber shop.
His clientele are a mix of millionaires, truck drivers, politicians, actors and policemen.
And while he won’t disclose whose hair he has trimmed, he says men do open up and share secrets.
“They are more reserved than women but they do talk about men things like rugby and work. You build quite a rapport with some customers.
“Barbering is very confidential. What is said in a salon, stays in a salon. People tell you confidential things and I don’t repeat what they say to someone else.”
The most fashionable cut of the moment, favoured by famous New Zealanders, is the short number one, two and three cuts, he says.
“When the Beetles came out it started longer hair, and barbers made the mistake of not changing. Some actually put up signs saying ‘no long hair’.”
He has seen the flat-top, mohawk, the spikey punk era and the colours in the 90s all come and go.
He has also witnessed the rise and the fall of barber shops.
“There aren’t enough barber shops.
“When I first came here there were four shops in Remuera. Then after two years we were the only one. They all died.”
With women’s salons continuing to charge more for a haircut, he says people are looking for cheaper alternatives.
The barber shop is on the revival once more.
“They find it convenient to come. And we get second and third generation families coming in.“
It’s the people and the connection,” he says.
The 66-year-old says he is sad to leave behind his Remuera customers, but is excited about meeting new clients at his Pt Chevalier shop.
“It would be great along with new customers to have some of my oldies pop in for a chat and a good haircut.”
Snip, cut: Mike Addy of The Gentry in Remuera is moving to Pt Chevalier after 35 years.