Hyrum Willeto, 11, sits still on top of a wooden block in the barber’s chair as Herman Ulibarri cuts his hair.

Hyrum Willeto, 11, could not be more still if he were carved from marble while sitting on a wooden box wedged into the barber’s chair in Ulibarri’s Barber Shop on Leroux Street.

As the buzz of the electric clippers fills the room, Hyrum’s mother, Brittany, reads a story book to his sister Olivia, 6, as they sit in two of the six chairs usually filled with men waiting for their turn in the chair. The Willetos are staying in Flagstaff while visiting from Ganado on the Navajo reservation.

For close to 100 years, hair has been falling in the same spot, and for more than a quarter of that time Herman Ulibarri has been wielding the clippers.

“I’ll probably still be here cutting hair in 2028 for the 100th anniversary,” Ulibarri said as he looked up to watch a couple strolling down the sidewalk in front of the picture window that fills the front wall of his barber shop. “This barber shop can be traced back to the 1920s. It opened in 1928 as the Leroux Barber Shop.”

“I tell people I am as old as World War II,” Ulibarri says with a chuckle. “I was born on Thanksgiving Day 14 days before they attacked Pearl Harbor.”

While he’s been working out of the shop on Leroux Street for 25 years, Ulibarri has been cutting hair for 52. “I started in Holbrook in ‘67 during the Vietnam era. The youngest boy that I have given a haircut to so far was 9 months old; the oldest was in his 90s.

“I used to cut hair for four of the Navajo Code Talkers, but they have all passed away now. The most famous person to be in my shop was Ellen DeGeneres. She taped in my shop for her TV show. She’s crazy,” Ulibarri added, looking to a photo of DeGeneres in a ball cap taped to the wall.

Ulibarri says that despite getting older, he has no plans of retiring. Just a couple of years away from his 80th birthday, Ulibarri’s hands are still steady as his knuckles slip through the finger rings of his scissors.

“I enjoy doing it. I hate to stay home and be a couch potato. I have four grandkids and three great-grandkids," he said. “This is a great location. People from all over the world walk through that door to get their hair cut. In the summer it’s a lot of Europeans. I enjoy talking to people. There’s a different story every day.”

Ulibarri charges $14 for a haircut and says on a good day he’ll cut 15 heads of hair. “I work five days a week and step out for lunch for an hour each day depending on how busy I am. I’m closed on Sundays and Mondays.”

While it’s not a king’s ransom, it’s a living made while watching life flow by on the sidewalk on the other side of a plate glass window. A life that sees the world walk through the door to sit in one of a horseshoe of chairs arranged in a semicircle while waiting for a turn in an old chrome barber's chair with a vinyl cushion and a nearby wooden box always ready for the shorter customers.

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Hyrum Willeto, 11, sits still on top of a wooden block in the barber’s chair as Herman Ulibarri cuts his hair.

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