With a client in the chair, there’s no chance the “snip-snip” of the scissors is stopping.
When I ask about the leather apron hanging in the corner with the old-fashioned shears in the pocket, Chuck shrugs. “My friend asked me why I never wear it. I told him because it’s too hipster. My friend laughed and said, ‘Chuck you cut hair in an airstream trailer. That’s as hipster as it gets.’”
“Hipster” doesn’t begin to describe the community of repurposed cargo containers, airstreams, and trailers in the parking lot of the Broadway News building. Richter Goods, the tenant of the building and the creation of San Antonio clothier Mario Gaujardo, has created a small marketplace of local business. Chuck Holdridge didn’t necessarily think he’d end up working in such an unusual location, even if he had always had an idea of what his work would be.
“My friend asked me why I never wear it. I told him because it’s too hipster. My friend laughed and said, ‘Chuck you cut hair in an airstream trailer. That’s as hipster as
“You now it’s weird I always did want to do hair.” Says Holdridge, “I used to go with my high school girlfriend to this salon and it seemed really cool. They could dress how they wanted to dress-that kind of rock and roll look.” Unfortunately, societal expectation would delay his entry into that world. “I was really into it but I thought ‘I’m a guy and guys don’t do hair.’ So I didn’t go for it.” Chuck says that despite this, the concept kept coming back to him. In college, where he pursued a business degree, the beauty industry was cited as a sector that almost never suffers recession.
Eventually Holdridge’s path led him into the military, similar to that of his father who served in the Marine Corps. In fact, his father’s service was the reason Chuck spent middle and high school in San Antonio and considers this area his hometown. When in the military, however, he traveled incredibly far from his San Antonio home. He would end up spending fifteen months in Afghanistan. While there, he made up his mind about pursuing his passion. “I was in this really crappy spot and I was like: ‘You know what? I’m going to do hair when I get home.’” He called up his wife and told her he was going to beauty school. She could not have been more supportive. He attended the Aveda Institute, which at the time was at the Historic Pearl. Upon graduation, he went to work for the same salon he had visited all those years ago with his high school girlfriend.
Over the next few years, Holdridge would move from the floor to management, overseeing several salons and even becoming the Director at the Aveda Institute. When the Institute moved to the north side, he realized he wanted to get back to cutting hair. He attended barber school to round out his skills. As for the airstream, he sort of “fell into it.” He explains: “I got on Craigslist one night and this (trailer) was on there. This was a salon in Austin. I didn’t do anything to it- It was done. It was meant to be.” Aside from adding a few features and amenities, the airstream salon was ready for him. “It’s perfect for affording your own business. They’re easy to find and they really reign people in. They’re awesome.”
Through different events and gatherings of downtown personalities, Chuck became familiar with Mario Gaujardo of Richter Goods. One day, while visiting the shop to buy a shirt, Mario stopped him. “Chuck! Chuck! You are in my head.” He exclaimed. Turns out, he had been silently planning a joint venture with Holdridge. Chuck opted to pull up his airstream and park it next to Richter Goods. So now here we are.
I got on Craigslist one night and this (trailer) was on there. This was a salon in Austin. I didn’t do anything to it- It was done. It was meant to be.
But why here on Broadway? As you can guess, Chuck has his reasons. “My goal was to never drive a car unless it’s to leave town. I’d bike, skateboard, just something human powered.” He says. Aside from this urban style of transportation, there was a significant experience that cemented downtown as a desirable home for him. “That album Rage Against The Machine came out in ’94. I listened to it and asked what it was. Someone told me I could get it at Hog Wild- it was the only place in town that had it. I just started driving and for the first time I drove off of I-10 onto Woodlawn. I had never seen a boulevard before, with the old homes and trees. I knew this world existed; I just didn’t know it was in San Antonio” He recounts. “You know now people come in like ‘San Antonio is blowing up!’ Well it’s not blowing up-it’s been awesome a long time.”
Now with children of his own, Chuck finds all new adventures downtown. “Hemisfair Park, we spend a lot of time there. Also the Mission Reach. And I have some friends doing some exciting new stuff at the food hall at the Pearl.” While there are many places, one ranks above others for Chuck: “This parking lot here. It’s not that I have to be here- I get to be here. When I’m not here I just want to be here.” That passion for his work is what makes Traveler Barbershop so unique. In fact, it reflects Holdridge’s description of downtown itself: “It’s accessible, it’s exciting, and you’re a part of it. You can be engaged. You can be involved in anything you want and people are receptive to it.”