Lori Hammond-Smith never thought she would open her own business – especially now, at the age of 51 – and it helped that for years she found herself under the guidance of longtime barber Garry Mountague, who held court in his Pearl Street shop for so long it felt like he might never leave.
But when Montague decided to retire after more than a half-century of business, Hammond-Smith and her two colleagues, Robin Yates and Jen Bissonnette, were faced with a challenge.
“We all wanted to [still] work together,” Hammond-Smith said. “We didn’t want everybody scattered everywhere. That’s what brought us here.”
Thus is the origin story of Green Mountain Clippers, which officially took over the space at 38 Park St. after the previous tenant gave notice around the same time Garry’s closed. Located in the Park Street Tavern building, owned by Hammond-Smith’s husband, the shop has become the new home of Garry’s former employees and the old shop’s many faithful followers, some of whom had been getting their haircut in the same place for decades.
“It was just meant to be,” Hammond-Smith said.
Yates, Montague’s daughter, said even though some longtime customers are a little skeptical upon entering the new shop, after seeing the space – and the familiar faces – they warm up to the idea pretty quick.
“It would have been 53 years in March that he would have been in that shopping center,” Yates said, while cutting a customer’s hair last week. “You have people that are like, ‘Where do we go now? Because we don’t want to go somewhere else.’ It’s like family.”
For now, Montague is taking some much-needed time off after more than 50 years as a small business owner. But according to Hammond-Smith, he may eventually start working at the shop part-time, good news for the trio of barbers who say they miss having Montague around, dispersing wisdom and jokes.
Hammond-Smith said she had another opportunity to open her own shop years ago but decided against it, preferring to stay at Garry’s, where she thought she’d stay until she hung up her clippers for good.
But after 25 years under his tutelage, Hammond-Smith picked up a few tips along the way. “I’m doing everything that he did,” she said.
Indeed, she offers everything – haircuts, hair products and maple syrup – that customers would expect to find at Garry’s, and for the same price, too. And she hopes to soon hang up some photos of the Vt. Air National Guard, just like the ones that used to decorate the walls of his shop – all ways to make it “a little more like home,” Hammond-Smith said.
There are some changes, of course, from local art hanging on the walls to the drinks customers can have while getting their hair cut – including a complementary beer. And there will likely be a few less jokes floating around, at least until Montague finds himself back in action.
Plus, for Hammond-Smith, her new endeavor comes with one additional role: “I was always in the back corner,” she said. “Now I’m the first face they see coming through the front door.”