Barbershop swap

Pete Kennedy gives his last haircut before moving his barbershop into William Street. Photo by Dale Neill.

ONLY in Freo: The barber who was displaced by the developer who planned to replace him with a brewery has been replaced with another barber whom he displaced.

Or to put it slightly more simply: Kennedy’s Barbershop has moved into the William Street shop formerly occupied by Norm Wrightson Hairway, while Norm Wrightson Hairway has moved into the South Terrace shop formerly occupied by Kennedy’s Barbershop – and it was an expensive swap that left everyone feeling a little sour.

The saga all started when Norm Wrightson owner Morteza Shojaee was told in 2017 that his 87-year-old business would have to relocate from its position in the Manning buildings, as owner Silverleaf Investments was doing a big refurbishment and he was in the way of a proposed microbrewery and restaurant.

Mr Shojaee dug in his heels, but encased in a noisy, dusty development site and refusing to pay his rent, the issue ended up in court and earlier this year he settled and agreed to move on.

His back-up plan was to move into a building he bought from the Cicerello about five years ago, but the South Terrace shop just around the corner from Fremantle Hospital was where Pete Kennedy had been trimming fringes and beards for the last 26 years.

Mr Kennedy told the Herald a forced move from his long-term base came as a shock, but with his lease about to expire there was little he could do but to cast around for new premises and fork out several thousand dollars to fit it out.

And that’s where the tale took its most bizarre twist; by the time Mr Shojaee and Silverleaf had sorted their disagreement out in court, brewers Running With Thieves had dropped their plans for the microbrewery in the CBD and Norm Wrightson’s shop was back on the market.

Mr Kennedy snapped up the site and told the Herald despite the mucking about, he feels he’s landed on his feet; the new premises is almost twice the size and across the road from Kings Square, which is nearing the end of its redevelopment and starting to bring people in to the centre of the city.

Wrightson honoured

FREMANTLE icon Norm Wrightson has died, aged 95, but his memory will live on in the barbershop that still bears his name and boasts much of his memorabilia.

Mr Wrightson first arrived in Fremantle with his parents during the Great Depression, the couple convincing a local landlord to give them a couple of months’ free rent so they could set up a barbershop opposite the Fremantle’s Town Hall.

Mr Wrightson grew up above the shop and played out the back in the port city’s alleyways. 

He was encouraged by his mother to take up music, and each day after hanging up his scissors he’d pick up his saxophone to play with his brother or the other swing bands starting up in Perth.

Old mate William Bullock got his first haircut from Mr Wrightson as a 14-year-old and learned to dance at Victoria Hall when the barber started his own band in 1949 and scored a regular Saturday gig.

Mr Bullock admits his first motivation was trying to catch the eye of one of the local lasses rather than any aspirations to be a Fred Astaire.

“It was the jives; everyone was jiving and I realised that if I was going to get in there I needed to do it as well,” he says.

Mr Bullock says the pair became closer friends in later years, often meeting at Shepherd’s Newsagents where Mr Wrightson liked to try his luck with Lotto.

Mr Wrightson retired in 1999, but regularly visited the barbershop to catch up with later owners.

In 2017 he lamented the loss of the old shop when current owner Morteza Shojaee was told he had to relocate.

“It breaks your heart to see something happen to the place,” Mr Wrightson said.

That turned out to be an eerie premonition: current Hairway manager Leila Faraje said she was planning to surprise Mr Wrightson by inviting him to officially open the barbershop in its new premises on South Terrace near Fremantle Hospital, only to discover she’d picked the day that turned out to be his funeral.

“I just cried and cried,” Ms Faraje told the Herald.

Instead of a celebration, the shop was closed out of respect.

Ms Faraje says they’ll be keeping Mr Wrightson’s memory alive through the vast collection of memorabilia he left behind, but says the timing of the move meant many precious items were lost forever.

“I found that a lot of the fittings were screwed into the wall, but because it was during the coronavirus shutdown I couldn’t find anyone who would go there and take them out.”

stories by STEVE GRANT

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