The Montecito Barber Shop Crew

The Montecito Barber Shop gives a person the feel of stepping back in time to a gentlemen's club. Inside the shop, there are comfy old-fashioned barber chairs, men reading newspapers and a sense that everyone has known each other for decades. Jess Martinez, Bob Sanchez and his son, Matt, have a rich history together. Jess and Bob recently celebrated 50 years in the barber business. The success of the business, according to Matt, derives simply from not having “customers, just a lot of good friends.”

Jess Martinez began cutting hair in the Navy during the Korean War. He later entered barber school and had his first job at Danny's Barber Shop on Figueroa Street. In 1964, having bought and sold Danny's Barber Shop, Jess opened the Montecito Village Barber Shop on East Valley Road. One year later, while looking for a partner, Jess had a scotch and beer with Bob at a bar on the Mesa and they immediately became business partners and lifelong friends. Together they have been keeping Montecito's men and boys looking sharp for 42 years.

Alongside Jess and Bob is Matt. Having been with these old friends for years, Matt considers himself lucky to work every day with his dad and Jess. During a recent visit, Matt's client asks for the “anniversary cut” and everyone in the shop gives an “ooooh!”

“All right loverboy,” Matt replies, as everyone laughs.

In 2000, Matt received the California Peace Prize for the non-profit he founded, “Hoods in the Woods.” This program takes troubled youth into the woods on outward-bound-type excursions. The goal of each excursion is to increase the troubled youths’ self-confidence and show them a better way of life. Matt has been married to his wife, Dawn, for 12 years and together they have eight kids and seven grandkids.

If Jess, Bob and Matt weren't so friendly, working with them might have been intimidating for the newest kid on the block, Richie Ramirez, who has been in the shop for only six months and says the atmosphere is “really great.” Richie attended school on the Central Coast, having gone to both St. Joseph's High School and Allen Hancock Junior College before moving to Santa Barbara. A former personal trainer, Richie works out five times a week – and he’s single!

Jess recently celebrated his 75th birthday at the Elk's Lodge in Goleta. At the party there was a room (and bar) packed with family, friends and clients. It doesn't take long to realize that family, friends and clients are one in the same for these barbers. Jess sits at a table with his wife of 47 years, Ruth. Also at the table are Jess’s three sons, Craig, Derrick, Bruce and their wives. Much like the shop, the room is filled with conversation and laughter. The emcee requests that each table serenade Jess in order to get their dinner served.

This is not a shy crowd, as hands go up in the air like a classroom full of school children. Some friends sing together, some prefer a solo. Dr. Joe Peus and his wife, Karen, are enjoying the celebration. Peus, a Barber Shop client of 35 years, currently has three generations getting their hair cut at the shop. “These guys are like family and they know you, your wife and kids,” he says. “They watch your family grow up.”

A few snapshot questions for the barbers:

Q. What was your first job?

A. Jess: Caddy at Montecito Country Club

Bob: House mover

Matt: Gas station attendant

Richie: Family restaurant, Pismo Peppers

What else would you have done if you were not a barber?

Jess: A cabinet maker

Bob: An artist

Matt: Motivational speaker

Richie: Personal trainer or other gym business

What is your favorite drink?

Jess: Screwdriver

Bob: Syrah

Matt: Eggnog

Richie: Vodka tonic

What is one fact people would be surprised to know about you?

Jess: I love to fish

Bob: I am very spiritual

Matt: I won the California Peace Prize in 2000

(Jess chimes in that they are all surprised when Matt shows up for work on time)

Richie: My dad and I buy houses, fix them up and flip them

What is the farthest corner of the world you have traveled to?

Jess: Japan

Bob: Mexico City

Matt: Scotland

Richie: Cancun

What is the best sound here in Montecito

Bob: Morning greeting to each other

Jess: I agree with Bob's answer

Matt: Saying good morning to my dad and Jess

Richie: The morning hellos

What quality do you most admire in Montecito people?

Jess: Sense of community

Bob: People being very personable

Matt: Definitely sense of community

Richie: Friendliness

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Jess: Being married to my wife and having my kids and family

Bob: My wife, kids and grandkids – it's great

Matt: Making a difference in people's lives

Richie: Living in Santa Barbara