The door that opened for Gabriel Harra to become Ripon’s newest barber literally fell on him.
Prior to opening the Ripon Barber Shop and Shave Parlor Hanna worked for a firm in Sacramento while living in Tracy. His employer one day assigned him to inventory control for garage doors. An accident caused a large door to fall on his legs that put him out of work for a year.
The idea of going to barber school came about on a church trip to Pinecrest Lake Resort when he, his wife and other church members saw a sign advertising a barbering school in Riverbank. A member of his church urged him to check it out. A week later he was in class learning to cut hair and shave men’s faces and heads.
The barber shop owner spoke before Ripon Rotarians meeting Wednesday at Spring Creek Country Club. Harra said the community has been great to him since opening his door on Nov. 1.
“Others have stopped by just wanting to talk,” he said. “I’m inspired by being in downtown Ripon.”
Community entrepreneur John Mangelos was one of those folks impressed with Harra. He coaxed him to go before the Rotary Club and introduce himself to the group. Harra said he isn’t drawn to public speaking, adding he doesn’t run from it either as he once did with his past speech impediment. At Rotary he found he made a new set of friends.
The first hurdle to cross to become a barber was to leave their small children who he had been babysitting as a stay-at-home dad for the 12 months he was recovering from his injuries so he could go to school seven hours a day.
“Everyone in my family has pitched in watching the kids,” he said. “It was more than I expected.”
Harra is now grinning ear to ear as he welcomes his new clientele into his shop in the 100 block of East Main Street in downtown Ripon.
He grew up in Tracy and is one of five children. He remembers his family as being among the community’s poor.
Hanna recalled how his mother took him to the University of the Pacific for ongoing help with his stuttering. He said she had to gather up small change for the gas to get him there – but she did and he benefitted.
If it hadn’t been for her, he wouldn’t be where he is today, Harra said. UOP had brought in a specialist from Stanford to work with Harra to help him overcome his speech problem. He quoted the specialist as saying it was the most difficult case he had seen to date.
The Ripon Barber Shop was formerly owned by George Rocha who retired last year after some 35 year.
Harra is searching out pictures of former barbers at work in the community to frame and put on his walls. Several have been found at the Ripon Museum on West Main Street with the help of docent Connie Jorgensen.
One such photo feature that ran in the Modesto Bee with a picture of the once popular “Jake the Barber” taken by former Bee photographer Ted Benson. It shows the veteran barber cutting the hair of a child in his chair. Other pictures include George Rocha now living in Turlock and the Pate Barber Shop dating back to 1926 with Joe Santos and Americo Bartoni in the chairs.
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