At a new barbershop in the Village Mall in St. John's, Mandip Garcha is realizing his dream of being a barber — a dream that began when he arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador seven years ago.
He's pretty new to the world of barbering, and to this shop, which opened in May. It's the second location for 1949 Barber Shop, which first opened in St. John's in 2018. The business calls itself "the UN of barbershops" and caters to mostly male clients from all ethnicities.
From cows to clients
When Garcha first moved to Newfoundland in 2014, he only dreamed of becoming a barber. But instead, he said he and his father worked at a dairy farm for three years.
"I used to take care of the cows and milk cows, all that," he said.
Garcha grew up in Italy but his parents are from India. In Italy, he was preparing to become an electrician, but that's not the career that Garcha wanted to pursue.
"I didn't even get a chance to actually do that as a job — and, well, I didn't want to either."
Garcha is also a musician, and what he did want was to channel his creativity into barbering.
"It's just another way of being an artist," he said.
By October 2020, Garcha was working at a fast food restaurant and said he didn't have the funds to go college to become a stylist or barber.
"My fiance, she knew how much I wanted to do this. And so she pushed me to go for it and maybe go ask my own barber if they can teach me."
Garcha, who was a client of 1949 Barber Shop on Torbay Road, went there on a day off to see if they could help.
"As long as you're dedicated, we'll help you," Garcha said the shop's owners told him. He went there to learn two days a week at first, as he was still working elsewhere.
Opportunity in second shop
By May, he quit his job to pursue barbering full-time at 1949's new, second location.
Garcha said he was frightened to change careers, but business has picked up quickly.
"I feel really grateful. I feel thankful.… The boys are pretty happy, the owner, Gustavo [Valoyes]. They're really supportive " he said.
"It is pretty awesome for them to give me a chance, because that's how they started as well. You know, they started from nothing … they challenged themselves to learn the craft and they give me all of their knowledge and all the help they didn't have."
At the new shop in the Village Mall, the walls are painted in black and white geometric shapes and are adorned with colourful artwork. A pool table sits in the centre of the shop.
"This is my workstation," Garcha said, pointing to his chair and neat rows of trimmers and barbering tools.
"Here at 1949 we're known for our fades. It's a blend from like, a shorter length of hair to a longer one and just fades smoothly."
As for Gacha's parents, he said at first they were a bit disappointed.
"They wanted me to do something else… something that probably makes you more money."
Now, he said, "They are pretty happy that I'm doing good."
"I hope I can continue doing this. And I don't know if one day I will have my own shop," said Garcha.