News

After decades of providing haircuts, Cambridge Barber Shop closes its doors

Barber Larry Skarset's customers have included David Packard

Longtime owner Larry Skarset poses at the new location of Cambridge Barber. Photo by Sinead Chang.

After more than 50 years of business spanning two generations of his family, Larry Skarset, 72, has closed the doors of his Cambridge Barber Shop at 382 Cambridge Ave. in Palo Alto ahead of a redevelopment project planned for the site.

Skarset started barbering in 1967, joining his father, Raymond Skarset, in his original shop on California Avenue. The father-son duo remained at that location for about 30 years, Skarset said, before moving to Cambridge Avenue in 1997. They worked side by side until Raymond died in 2009.

While Skarset may have closed the doors of his longtime shop, he doesn't plan to retire any time soon. On July 3, Skarset moved into Beauty Spa by Ereeda located at 200 S. California Ave. near Mollie Stone's Markets, where he will continue to cut hair from a rented chair at the shop.

"It's been very interesting to see how the Silicon Valley's developed over all these years," said Skarset, who sat down with the Weekly earlier this week to reminisce about his many decades as a small business owner in Palo Alto. It's a profession that has included giving haircuts to Hewlett-Packard Co. co-founder David Packard along with countless students and professors from Stanford University.

Among the changes he's seen: Rents have gone up — way up.

He said the approximately 800-square-foot space on California Avenue where he and his father once worked is now vacant. When he inquired about possibly moving the shop back into that site, the landlord quoted him $5.50 per square foot.

"That's about $4,000 or $5,000. You'd have to really do a lot of business for that," Skarset said. "It was about $1,800 or $2,000" when he and his father were there.

The project that forced him to leave his Cambridge shop involves demolishing three buildings, with addresses ranging from 378 to 410 Cambridge, to make room for a new three-story building that will have retail on the ground floor and office space on the second and third. Most of the existing spaces have been occupied for many years by small business owners like Skarset.

"The little small business guys are all out now," he said referring to the many mom-and-pop businesses that once lined California Avenue. "It seems like everything's getting franchised now, but I've been staying in business. I've been here for 50 years now, and I'd like to stay around. I do good work, I love the business and I like the people."

In the final days before Skarset moved out of his longtime shop, most of the memorabilia that had covered the walls for generations had been taken down, including all the pennants from various universities that he had accumulated from customers over the decades.

His collection started when a former customer mentioned he was attending Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, which Skarset had never heard of.

The customer told Skarset more about the school and later brought him a pennant, which he pinned to the wall. Clients carried on the tradition until Skarset's walls were covered.

"Maybe they'll let me put Stanford and Cal back up at the new place," he said.

"And Harvard ... I've got all the Ivy Leagues," he added with pride.

Although he said it's been difficult coming to terms with the move, he understands that change is inevitable.

"Life is always changing and you gotta go with the changes, I guess," he said.

He does, however, have some concerns about Palo Alto's rapid growth.

"There's too much wealth, and it's getting to be where if you're not wealthy, you're not going to be able to live here," he said, adding that it may not be long before residents will have to travel outside of Palo Alto to find mechanics, barbers and other service workers.

As for his thoughts about the new development replacing his shop and the adjacent buildings, he said he wishes the developers "the best of luck."

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2019 at 10:50 am

Rose is a registered user.

We are losing longtime small business tenants because of the greed of real estate owners. They are so eager to raise rents at every opportunity that they are tearing apart the fabric of our community. What kind of a community is it that can’t keep barbers, therapists, shoe repair shops, art supply stores, and on and on. Greed is ruining Palo Alto’s quality of life.


25 people like this
Posted by Jim Girand
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2019 at 11:30 am

Larry and his father are the 'fabric' that hold a community together........!! Ray was my original barber 40 years ago and when he passed, I 'seamlessly' transitioned to Larry, who is a very fine barber. We helped each other through lost spouses and established an unbreakable bond. The investors who buy these properties and put hard working people like Larry on the 'margins', forcing them to move or quit, should reflect on the changes they are causing. Just look at University Avenue if you want to see what California Avenue will look like.

We are lucky Larry has found a new, smaller place to continue cutting hair.


13 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2019 at 12:25 pm

@Rose You are absolutely correct. We have to stop these greedy property owners from changing Palo Alto from what it was 50 years ago.

Let's start with the greedy single family property owners. We have to stop them from selling property that they bought for less than $50,000 in the 1970's for millions of dollars. We also have to claw back all the property taxes that they never paid due to Prop 13.

So lets have regulated property sales which limit the appreciation to historical values of less than 7% . So any property bought in the 1970s - 1980's for $20,000 can only be sold for $200K.

No more million dollar home sales. That will bring back affordable housing in Palo Alto. Once that depresses all the property values throughout the city you won't find any commercial development. Then you can be happy that no one is kicked out of their rented space.f

But what's that you say? You want YOUR property to be worth millions of dollars but you want others to never increase the value of their property? You only want to complain how others are greedy but not you?

/marc




14 people like this
Posted by Kudos to Mr Skarset...a Survivor
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Another iconic small business displaced, very recently we have lost the Milk Pail, Barron Park Plumbing Supply, and many others, why can't cities figure out a way to require developers to allocate space to keep these businesses, much like the Rose Market. All the character is being obliterated out of this area. When people visit other countries they gravitate towards 'old town' and historical areas which have a story to tell, not glass office towers, offering nothing to the local community.

All the best to Mr Skarset, hopefully he will acquire new customers from this piece about him.


4 people like this
Posted by bad haircut
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:04 pm

I tried going to this place when I first moved to Palo Alto and got THE WORST haircut ever in my entire life. I felt bad for the guy (owner) probably cutting my kind of hair for the first time ever so even paid and tipped but had to run to another place to fix my hair. Nice establishment with clear tradition, but are we really losing more than bad haircuts?


9 people like this
Posted by Greedy?? Not when it applies to you.
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Anyone who uses the term 'greedy property owners' would never apply that term to themselves if they were selling Palo Alto home for multi-millions, making a very tidy profit...are they greedy too? Or are you going to refuse the windfall and sell the place for maybe 30% of your original purchase price in 1970 because that would be a fair profit? Come on people, cut out the hypocrisy.

OR If you have owned a home in Palo Alto for years, not only are you sitting on a huge profit, you benefit from Prop 13, another travesty. And if you keep the home you can pass that prop 13 assessment to your kids and grand kids. Who's greedy now? the young family who lives next doo might have paid 2.5M for a home just like yours, but pays 20K+ in Prop tax. Do you feel guilty about that? Who is greedy now???


Like this comment
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2019 at 8:07 am

@Kudos to Mr Skarset...a Survivor . Re: Milk Pail The Milk Pail went out of business due to lack of customers. The same reason that the Meno Park Tastee Freeze closed and many other businesses.

So before you blame the "cities" why don't you look in the mirror and ask yourself and your neighbors when was the last time you patronized the businesses that closed. Were you going there every week? Or did you stop going their years ago and just harbour a fantasy that this cute little business existed in the back of your mind but bought all your products where it was cheaper and more convenient?

A lot of these local businesses close and when they do everyone comes out and says "I used to..." that is the operative phrase "used to".

/marc


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2019 at 8:59 am

When we lose retail and it is replaced with a new development it brings in different types of retail.

When San Antonio was redone, we lost places like a useful shoe shop, a useful sports shop, a useful drugstore, and in its place we have a mattress shop and a high end jewelers. I used the old retail regularly, never bought a mattress and have bought a couple of Christmas gifts in the jewelers but there is not an equal comparison between useful everyday retail and luxury retail.


5 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2019 at 9:40 am

Why don't we declare Palo Alto to be a Historic Reenactment District like Williamsbury and Brattonsville?

In can be set in the early 1960's. All families will have a male spouse working out of the house and the female spouse will dress up like Donna Reed, stay at home and cook all the food from scratch. Makeup and pearls will be required

Each family will own one vehicle and the at home spouse will walk to the green grocer, butcher, shoe maker, ,etc.

Stores will close at 6:00pm. No internet, computers, home delivery, vaccines, medicine or other semblances of modern technology will be allowed. Life expectancy will be 60 years old, high infant mortality. But everyone will be happy because it is the life they remember from their youth.


/marc


4 people like this
Posted by You Want the Area to Remain the Same?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 6, 2019 at 10:54 pm

You want the area to remain the same?
> Stop using Facebook, I stopped in 2007
> Stop using the latest tech
> Stop using Flip Phones
> Encourage kids to not work in the tech industry
> Stop eating at those horrible minimalist Tolix chair restaurants
> Stop getting things delivered to you and go in-person to get everything...
Need I say more?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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