Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals. Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (858) 875-5950.
Dean Blundell cut La Jolla men’s hair for 50 years, first working for a third party, and since 1978, out of his own Village Barber Shop at 7517 Fay Ave. From Gregory Peck and John Wayne to generations of locals, men have sat in his chair to have their hair trimmed and spill their thoughts and feelings, which led to solid bonds of respect and friendship. Blundell retired earlier this year.
Where are you from?
“I grew up in San Diego, in Point Loma, but I’ve been working in La Jolla for 50 years. Now, I live in Santee.”
What brought you to La Jolla?
“I worked in Point Loma for five years, and then I saw an ad for a barber job in the paper, answered it, and I’ve been here ever since. At first, I worked by what used to be John’s Waffle shop for 12 years, then I started my own.”
How did you learn your craft?
“After high school, I went to barber college for one year, and then I started working right after that.”
Did you have many loyal clients?
“Yes, I had a handful of clients whose hair I’ve cut for over 40 years. Some were not even married (when I started cutting their hair) and now they have grandchildren. So, it’s been a while. And I really appreciate all the nice people I’ve met over the years.”
Are you married?
“Yes, I had a wife pass away, so this is my second marriage. We’ve been married 17 years, so I feel like I’ve been married all my life, but that’s a good thing. I have three children, Lisa (52), Kim (50) and Mark (48), and three grandchildren, Niko, Deven and Tehya, my youngest granddaughter, who started college at NYU this year.”
What’s it like being retired?
“It’s difficult when you just retire; I have nothing to do. I find or create jobs around the house, and try to stay out from underneath my wife’s feet, because she’s retired, too. Her name is Denise.
It happened very quickly; a man came along who had been after me for 15 years to buy my shop. And I think I was getting tired, my shoulders and that kind of thing ... but my clients, sometimes I feel like I deserted them, but there’s nothing I can do, is just the way it is ... life goes on.
I also wanted to have a little life after I retired. We want to travel a little bit, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m beginning to think that I deserve it (laughs). It takes a while.”
What did you like about having your business in La Jolla?
“I think the personal relationships with people. The work was OK, it was fine. I got to where I could do it with my eyes closed. But it’s the personal relationships that were important to me.”
What’s your secret for keeping clients loyal?
“Treating them like I like to be treated. That’s an old time thing, but it’s very true. Every single time it works.”
What’s the craziest haircut someone asked you to do?
“I didn’t really have that, no ‘mohawks’ or that sort of thing. In the 1970s and ’80s, the kids wanted their hair long, and their parents wanted it short. There were some battles in the shop. Not with me, I stayed out of it!”
How have La Jollans’ hairstyles evolved through the years?
“It was just a normal men’s haircut, like I have, and then it got longer for a while, long sideburns, even the news people had long sideburns and hair over their ears, and it’s gone back now to something like I have, a normal haircut.”
What were your business hours?
“I had a lot of early business. I’d open at 6 a.m. and close at 2 p.m.”
Were there people getting haircuts at 6 a.m.?
“Absolutely! I had a couple of 5 a.m. walk-ins, and a lot of appointments at 6 a.m. So I built a business on being there early.”
What were some of your routines?
“I got up very early in the morning, and got ready for work, and there was no traffic. I would come to work, get my coffee, read the paper, and then either have appointments or walk-ins early. And I enjoyed that, I enjoyed the people. It’s been a great run.”
Did you ever cut famous people’s hair?
“When I worked on Girard Avenue, I cut the hair of a lot of movie stars. Gregory Peck, John Wayne … and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover used to hang out here! He was short, like I am, and he was surrounded by big tall guys. It was a different time!”
Which haircuts would the stars ask for?
“Just a trim. They didn’t want anything radical because they might be filming or doing something. John Wayne came in one day for a trim, and there was a little man sitting in a chair waiting, he must have been age 80 or so, and when he saw John Wayne he got so excited. John Wayne got up out of the chair after I trimmed his hair and went over and talked to that guy for 20 minutes. That made that guy’s day! Wayne was a nice man, very sweet. Of course, you didn’t mess with him (laughs).”
Did you have a favorite client?
“I had many clients who were my favorites. That’s the truth! I made personal friends, I got a couple of buddies who were clients, we would go get lunch together and hang out. It’s more than just a customer-barber relationship, it’s a personal relationship.”
What do you miss the most?
“The people and the conversations. People shared a lot. And of course, they knew that nothing left the shop, just like Las Vegas (laughs).”
How has La Jolla changed over the years?
“In 1967, when I started working here, the University had just started. It grew and grew, and it brought art, music, theater, and a lot of well-educated people. It changed the town dramatically, and I think for the best. It was a nice town, but it was small. It’s a nice mix of people now.”
What do you do for fun?
“I do everything I can do in a hobby, and then I get bored with it. Photography is one I really stick with. I mostly take pictures of family, some scenery. And what’s funny is that people now take pictures and get them in their computers, but never get them developed. I’ve got 4,000 pictures in my computer, and maybe 10 that I’ve developed. That’s crazy!”
If you got to do it all again, would you change anything?
“I might have chosen something else to do. I did two years in college, but figured that I was not going to make a living in biology and I was married and had a little girl, and I needed to make a living, so that’s what I did. I might have done that differently somehow ... I’ve always had this wish to have a job or career where I could help people. If I did so with the barbering, fine, but I would have liked to be a scientist, a doctor or something like that.”