So, You'd Like To Know More About Us?!

This article was written by the Los Gatos Weekly Times in Sept. of 2000. Our shop at that time was King's Court Barber Shop on Blossom Hill Rd. Although we are now known as Los Gatos Barber Shop and have a new location on Los Gatos Blvd., this article will tell you a lot about the shop history, and also a bit about Frank and Lee.


  September 20, 2000    Los Gatos, California  Since 1881

Los Gatos Weekly-Times
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Cover Story

    Photograph by Kathy De La Torre

    Barber Lee Giraudo gives a buzz cut to client Bill Lamg, who's been coming to King's Court Barber Shop for 15 years. Says Lamg about his hair length: 'If you can grab it, it's too long.'

    Clip Joint

    For nearly 40 years, King's Court Barber Shop has been an old-fashioned meeting place

    By Sandy Sims

    Photographs by Kathy De La Torre

    There are few places left in this valley where a man can let his hair down (so to speak) with other men, jaw with old friends about his day, or commiserate about his marriage, except perhaps at the old-fashioned barber shop. At the King's Court Barber Shop, Tim Burnett sits in the barber chair while Saratogan Lee Giraudo, co-owner of the Los Gatos shop, drapes a plastic hair cloth over him; Cliff Hibbitts, the youngest barber at the shop and the son of co-owner Frank Hibbitts, rests in his seat for a few moments until his next customer arrives. Sal Ferla, retired former co-owner, leans against the counter. He's filling in for the vacationing Frank. The four men banter and tease each other. They have fun recalling old times.

    They've been having fun for some 29 years, since the shop opened in 1961, and so have their customers.

    Only hair styles have changed over the years.

    "We've gone in circles," Giraudo says as he turns on the electric clippers and sculpts Burnett's hair into a perfect crew cut. "There was the Beatles haircut, then it was wash and wear, then the razor cut. Now we are back to the '40s and short hair," he says and flashes his radiant smile as if he's having a ball cutting Burnett's hair.

    Burnett travels all the way from IBM at Santa Teresa and Cottle to have his haircut here. He's been coming back since 1965. "They are so good," Burnett says.

    The four men laugh because, though they know they are good, they also know it's more than a haircut Burnett comes for. He's an old Los Gatos boy, graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1961.

    The King's Court Barber Shop is one of those Los Gatos treasures where everyone has known everyone for a very long time, where men come to share laughs and confidences, where they bring their sons and their grandsons--some four generations of them.

    The only thing that's changed about the shop is the color of the owner's hair to gray, and an accumulation of mementos hanging around the shop. Some of these mementos might seem a little unusual to newcomers.

    Hanging along the top perimeter of the walls are some amazing animal trophy heads, a massive cape buffalo, an antelope, a caribou, and the head of a snarling wild boar. There are antler racks of a moose, an elk and more. There are two huge mounted marlins and several birds. And hanging from various antlers are some 20 or so forgotten hats and an old hornet's nest.

    But, ironically, no one at the shop hunts.

    "These are save-your-marriage trophies," Giraudo says laughing. Our customers bring them to us when their wives tell them, 'Either that thing goes, or you go.'"

    Frank Hibbitts carefully trims the hairline behind the ear of one of his clients.

    Photograph by Kathy De La Torre

    Hibbitts says, "We get some really goofy things from our customers." He points out a photocopy of Robert Alton Harris--the California executed murderer's--death certificate hanging on the wall. "See, it calls the state execution a 'Judicial Homicide'," Hibbitts says. There's also a photocopy of Marilyn Monroe's coroner's report, as well as a copy of the ticket issued to James Dean just one hour before his death and, alongside that, a copy of Dean's death certificate. Along the mall a mass of post cards boast of trips here and there around the world.

    One of the shop's longtime customers used to keep a daily log of Los Gatos' rainfall. When he died his son brought in a computer print out of the year's average rainfall in Los Gatos. There's a tiny clipping from the Los Gatos Weekly Times taped to the wall that declares: "The two places on earth with the most equitable climate are Aswan, Egypt and Los Gatos."

    One of the pictures hanging on the wall captures a very young Mike Skrimet and his buddies when Skrimet first arrived in Los Gatos in a 1929 Model-T Ford he'd bought for $15. Eighty-nine-year-old Skrimet is a longtime customer.

    "Look at this," Giraudo says laughing as he pulls a framed note off the wall. The note was written by a customer's wife and explains exactly how she wanted her husband's haircut.

    Giraudo has been barbering for 48 years. "I'm now a Saturday barber," he says. Recently he's been helping out full time until the shop finds another barber since, Cliff (Steamboat) Ingham died a few weeks ago.

    Ferla, who is living at the Villages now, is helping out while Frank Hibbitts vacations in England.

    "It's difficult to find barbers now, not many going into it." Giraudo says. "It's a dying breed." There are about 25,000 or fewer barbers in California today, he says. "About 10 years ago there might have been 30,000. Besides, barbers can't earn enough to live here."

    But that's not for want of customers. "We get new customers all the time," Giraudo says. "No one can cut men's hair the way a barber does."

    "Look at that," Giraudo says, swinging his barber's chair around to show off the neatly clipped back of Chris Manganelo's hair. Manganelo, who is heading out the next day for his first year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, has been coming to the shop since he was 4 or 5.

    Hairdressers aren't trained to use clippers. "We can always tell when a woman's cut a customer's hair," Hibbitts says. "They always leave something sticking out somewhere." He says as he clicks his scissors around his customer's hair.

    Photograph by Kathy De La Torre

    Frank Hibbitts, co-owner of King's Court Barber Shop, jokes with his first client of the day, Dick Wilson of Los Gatos, at a 7 a.m. appointment. Wilson has been going to Hibbitts for the past four years.

    Thirty-two-year-old Hibbitts says his father, Frank, is the one in the shop who likes to style hair. "He cuts hair for quite a few women," Hibbitts says. "He's passionate about hair. He thinks of it as an art." Hibbitts says his father signals people into the shop after the doors are closed for the night and comes in at 7 a.m. for some customers.

    "It would take a hair stylist at a salon a long time to do what we do," Giraudo says as he shows off another neatly trimmed longtime customer, Mort Sherin, another LGHS grad from 1961.

    At the shop, men don't have to suffer through the smell of permanent wave. If they want color, Hibbitts says, they usually go to a "fru fru" shop, and then come back for a cut.

    Giraudo say barbering is one of the world's oldest professions. "The tools haven't really changed, either, except for the electric clippers," he says. "All you need are a pair of sheers, some clippers and a comb."

    But it takes time to become good at barbering.

    Hibbitts says the first time he cut a customer's hair, he sweated like a pig. "It took me 2 1/2 hours to cut my first customer's hair." He says he trimmed so little hair at a time that the floor was covered with powder. While he was in barber school, he invited his friends to the shop after hours for a free haircut and a beer.

    Hibbitts is now an eight-year veteran, the youngest in the county.

    "Kids are tough," Hibbitts says. "But we'll do any kid." Just a few days ago, a woman came from East San Jose to get haircuts for her three boys.

    "Kids are scared because we put the cape on and cover their arms and then buzz around their ears with the clippers," Hibbitts says. He says they relax after about three visits. "Then it can be worse because they start playing with you, leaning into the clippers, turning their heads."

    One-year-old Eric Tsu's mother, Jacquelynn Tsu, gave her son a lollipop to keep him happy on his third trip to the barber. When his hair began to fall, he got upset, then the hair stuck to his lollipop and he lost his patience. It was all in a day's work for Lee Giraudo.

    Photograph by Kathy De La Torre

    A picture on the wall shows a boy of 18 months, sitting high in Frank Hibbitts' barber chair. Frank is straddling the chair with his left leg as he snips away at the bawling, little tyke's hair.

    Giraudo jumps up and stands in his chair to show how he had to position himself to cut a boy's hair while his tall father held the boy on his shoulder. Ferla says he has gotten down on his knees to cut the hair of a sick young man who couldn't hold up his head.

    It all started in 1961 when Sal Ferla and Lee Giraudo opened up their shop at King's Court at Blossom Hill and Los Gatos Boulevard. "Everyone said we were nuts," Ferla says. "Nobody will come all the way out there," people told them. "We knew it would work because we had so many old friends from LGHS and knew many people out here."

    After opening the shop, Lee and his wife made their home just down the road in Saratoga in 1962, where their children attended Saratoga schools and from where a number of customers came.

    Ferla and Giraudo have roots in this area that go way back.

    "I went to grammar school at Old Town," Ferla says, referring to Old Town's earlier life as University Avenue School. "Lee's father came to Los Gatos in 1914 and panned gold up at the town of Alma," Ferla says. "His dad actually found a nugget."

    It seems the King's Court Barber Shop is a nugget of Los Gatos gold. The kind of place Los Gatans love. The kind of place for which we all yearn, where one can pause awhile and chew on old times. Where before heading off to college, a young man can get a haircut from some guy who's known him since he was a toddler. And for only $13.75. Seniors $10.75.

    King's Court Barber Shop is located at 710 Blossom Hill Rd. in Los Gatos. 408.356.9712

Cover Story
The King's Court Barber Shop served as an old-fashioned meeting place for nearly 40 years

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