While he wasn’t born or raised in the Haliburton area, Nick Folco still considers his most recent return to the region to be something of a homecoming.
Launching the downtown area’s newest business, The Noble Barber, last Tuesday, Dec. 8, Folco caught up with the Echo to discuss his motivations for moving to the Haliburton area and reflect on the “overwhelming” welcome he’s received over the past week.
“I came to this area a lot while I was growing up. A lot of my friends and family have cottages in the area, so Haliburton is a place that is very familiar to me,” Folco said. “Even as I got older, I still found ways and reasons to visit the area. I guess I’ve always just felt drawn to be here, like I was meant to be here.”
He added, “Then, my wife, she split her time growing up in Milton and Minden, so she knows the area really well. We’d come up on weekends and just loved the atmosphere. We’ve been saying for a long time that, if we could ever make work happen up here, we would do it.”
The couple’s journey towards making their dream become a reality began in earnest around six years ago. Folco considers himself to be something of a late bloomer. He got into the hairstyling business when he was 29. Working at a West 49 store at the time, Nick was looking for something he could really sink his teeth into.
When his wife, Kirstley, almost on a whim suggested he visit a barber shop in Burlington to see if he’d be interested in cutting hair for a living, even Nick couldn’t have imagined what it would lead to.
“I went in and watched my mentor, John Courtney. He had this guy come in with this crazy long hair, and the guy’s like ‘I want to take it all off’. Seeing that transformation, where a guy went from a mop, essentially, to this nice side-part, with a cool fade on the side – I thought that was really cool to watch. Then I thought to myself, if I could do this it would be a lot of fun,” Folco recalled.
Following that meeting, Nick officially became an apprentice at The Village Cigar and Barbershop. He would hone his craft there for around three years before moving on to another opportunity in Peterborough. There he built up his clientele, and essentially operated as his own business under another barber’s roof. Gaining experience with each cut, Folco always considered that job to be a stepping stone towards something better.
The Noble Barber is open five days a week, Tuesday through to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. While Folco says he specializes in shorter hair styles, he is also prepared to offer salon-style services to those interested. A traditional haircut, which Nick says can be anything from a buzz cut to back and side fade, costs $25. He also offers beard trims and hot towel shaves.
“Hot towel shaves were really popular in Peterborough. We had people coming from all over the place to get one. The way I do it – I cover the face with six hot towels. There’s an oil and a lather in between each towel to help the skin soften up, open up the pores and bring the dirt to the forefront of the skin and then shave the hair off,” Folco said. “You get that nice baby bum smooth feeling once it’s done.”
While he will spend the next few months establishing a new clientele here in Haliburton, Folco has some significant room at his shop for future growth. With a second barber station already set up and ready to go, Nick says he’s open to bringing somebody in to work alongside him in the future. Beyond that, he wants to open up a line of communication with Haliburton Highlands Secondary School to show local youth there are different ways to earn a living.
“I really want to have a space, one day, for people that might not know what they want to do with their life. I stumbled into this when I was 29 years old, so definitely later in life. I’d really like to go into the local high school and just tell kids that you don’t have to go into the traditional workforce, you don’t have to become a doctor, or feel forced to go into something you don’t want to do. There are so many more things out there you can do that can make you a living, and you can enjoy your life rather than being stuck into thinking you have to conform to certain ideas,” Folco said. “I’m hoping to set up a third station at the shop eventually that will be just for teaching. And then we can have people that are maybe interested in this to come in and see if it’s for them.”
More than anything, though, Nick wants to turn his new shop into a central hub for the community – one where anyone, no matter the age, can feel comfortable visiting.
“I want this place to become a real old school, traditional barbershop. Growing up, I remember going to get my hair cut and there being guys inside playing chess or checkers, and just hanging out. I think it would be really cool to have something like that,” Folco said. “I’m going to have a coffee machine here, so I’m encouraging people to come in, read the paper, watch some sports on the TV… I’d love for this to become a spot where regulars come in and just hang out.”
Visit www.thenoblebarber.ca or call 705-457-1840 to book an appointment.
Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo