WORDS Liam Stretch PHOTOS Sarah Rowlands

Benny’s Barber Shop has become a mainstay in Ōtautahi over the last few years. As it approaches one year in its headquarters on Disraeli Street, I caught up with the founder, Ben Scott.

“It all started as a bit of a joke... a bit of a yarn with the boys.”

The first thing you notice about Ben is his demeanour. Kind, welcoming, 100 per cent proud of his barber shop. Ben’s been cutting hair for some time now. Having started back in his early twenties while in a flat, he used to cut his own hair and his roommates’ as well.

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“I would do my own haircut after watching YouTube videos...they [flatmates] would trade me a deep-fried Cadbury Dream bar from the Fish ‘n’ Chip shop for a cut,” said Ben.

Ben headed to Auckland to do a course in barbering and came back to Christchurch around five years ago.

Then came the sleep-out in his mum and dad’s backyard. A box essentially, where he would run a shop out of. Later, he moved onto a caravan doing gigs wherever he could – sometimes offering free cuts just to get his name out there. Then came the shipping containers, taken on a flatbed truck to busy locations around Ōtautahi.

Some of these shipping containers and the caravan found their way into the flagship store. The caravan is gone now, but the containers remain – creating instant separate rooms.

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The Disraeli Street barber shop is a warm, open space. High ceilings, a basketball half court, Ben’s first pair of clippers hanging from a buck’s head, and street art adorning the ex-glass factory warehouse walls all add to the relaxed atmosphere at Benny’s.

“I’ve always had a dream of a big warehouse barbershop. It’s a bit fun, it’s different, and it is an enjoyable place to work,” said Ben.

The team of 16 staff across two stores – the flagship site on Disraeli Street, and the CBD barbers in the ANZ Centre – provide cuts and shaves for 750-plus people a week. Ben has an air of compassion about
him – he wants to see others succeed. This compassion and community spirit see Benny’s flagship store being used for more than just haircuts. Hosting the Nifty Markets, parties, Burger Fuel’s Friday Night Bites – and more recently, the ‘Book a Yarn’ service.

Ben noticed, that in his profession people often opened up to him.

“People talked to me about some pretty serious stuff. I often knew what was going on in their lives, and as a 21-year-old that was a lot to take on.”

When asked why he thinks people let their feelings flow while in the chair, he thought the personal touch had a lot to do with it.

“You’re in people’s personal space... there’s physical contact...you break down that boundary.”

This is how the business’s most recent development ‘Book a Yarn’ came to be. Ben came up with the idea of having ‘yarnologists’, a trained counsellor capable of dealing with more complex issues. The idea was to get men to open up, without the intimidation of talking to a counsellor.

“You can just come have a yarn.”

Ben has built more than a barber shop, he’s built a family.