FARGO - When Branden Ashmore first started casting about for a career, not one of the job descriptions he considered included running his fingers through men’s hair.
Ashmore, the co-owner of Fargo’s newest barbershop, the Nice Barber Company, first considered computer science, taking classes at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
“I realized that wasn’t the direction where I wanted to go in my life,” Ashmore said Monday, May 10.
“The quick and easy solution to that was I started bartending. And I started making great money bartending. But, after over a decade in that industry, I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. I never saw my family. I never saw most of my friends. I worked all night long, so my days were shot. And I worked every weekend,” Ashmore said.
He also did professional photography - weddings, concerts and for motorcycle publications.
“I finally made the decision that I needed to think of something more long-term in my life. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know if I’d want to go back to college again, what else are my options?’
“My uncle used to always tell me I’d make a great barber. And I told him he was crazy, because there was no way I’d want to run my fingers through men’s hair. Then I thought about it; all that work in the service industry, it translated into this job.
“The only difference is you’re cutting somebody’s hair instead of providing alcohol. So that’s kind of why I moved into the barber industry.”
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Nice Barber is housed in Fargo Brewing Company’s recently opened multi-use facility at 610 University Drive N. The barbershop is adjacent to the new taproom, The Hall concert and events center, and The Lounge meeting space. (In time, Nova Eatery and a cafe are planned for the building, too)
Ashmore and fellow barber Scott Ehresman started cutting hair, trimming beards and shaving customers at the grand opening on April 20. And the first couple weeks were busy, only now slowing up a bit.
Ashmore’s partners include local concert promoter Jade Nielsen and Ian Johnson.
The four-seat shop has a clean, spare look, with polished concrete floors and lots of windows looking out on the taproom, North University, and an outdoor patio area on the south side of the building.
A couple rows of seats salvaged from a Twin Cities school auditorium give customers a place to lounge and sip on a beer as they wait for their turn in the barber chair.
A vintage Suzuki motorcycle and motorcycle helmets speak to a shared love of motorcycles that helped Ashmore and Nielsen connect.
A humidor of vintage cigars stands off to the side for customers that want to head to the patio to light up and enjoy some fine, rolled tobacco.
Ashmore is aiming for a Midwestern, small-town vibe.
“We wanted to make a place where everyone can come in and enjoy the space and have a good time and talk about motorcycles, and fishing and hunting.
“I mean, I feel that since this pandemic hit, that sense of family has diminished. … people don’t make eye contact. I want to get back to the congregation of people, you know, actually speaking to each other in person. Getting out, just enjoying the day,” he said. “Even if you don’t want to get a haircut. Stop by, have a beer.”
Ashmore got his training as a barber at Fargo’s Moler Barber College, graduating in September 2019. He then went to work at Everett’s Barbershop in downtown Fargo.
Not long after, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Work cutting hair became more scarce as downtown workers were working from home, and college students had left the schools for online courses.
“It got to the point with everything going on in this world going on right now, this (owning a barbership) was something I had thought about for years, and figured if there’s a time to do it, now would be the time to take the risk,” Ashmore said. “I mean, what do you really have to lose? We’ve been in cages for the last year anyway. Take the risk.”
The shop is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ashmore said it will be open on Saturdays once in a while, but he intends to announce those dates on social media a week in advance.
The shop offers all traditional barber services, and will stay open past posted hours as long as there are customers.
“If there’s people who want to get cut, or call in, we’ll wait,” Ashmore said. “We’ll stick around to take care of our customers. It’s part of the service industry. Going to a barbershop shouldn’t be like the DMV.”